The year is 1958. O'Connor, a young reporter with the Las Piernas News Express, is desperate to discover who has perpetrated a savage attack on his mentor, Jack Corrigan. In and out of consciousness, Corrigan claims to have witnessed the burial of a bloodstained car on a farm, but his reputation as a heavy drinker calls his strange story into question. In a seemingly unrelated mystery, a yacht bearing four members of the wealthy Ducane family disappears during a storm off the coast. An investigation finds that the Ducane home has been broken into; a nursemaid has been killed; and Max, the infant heir, has gone missing. Corrigan recovers his health, but despite a police investigation and his own tireless inquiries, the mysteries of the buried car and the whereabouts of Maxwell Ducane haunt him until his death.
Twenty years after that fateful night, in her first days as a novice reporter working for managing editor O'Connor, Irene Kelly covers the groundbreaking ceremony for a shopping center -- which unexpectedly yields the unearthing of a buried car. In the trunk are human remains. Are those of the infant heir among them? If so, who is the young man who has recently changed his name to Max Ducane? Again the trail goes maddeningly, perhaps suspiciously, cold.
Until today. Irene, now married to homicide detective Frank Harriman, is a veteran reporter facing the impending closing of the Las Piernas News Express. With circulation down and young reporters fresh out of journalism school replacing longtime staffers, Irene can't help but wish for the good old days when she worked with O'Connor. So when the baffling kidnap-burial case resurfaces, Irene's tenacious love for her mentor and journalistic integrity far outweigh any fears or trepidation. Determined to make a final splash for her beloved paper and solve the mystery that plagued O'Connor until his death, Irene pursues a story that reunites her with her past and may end her career -- and her life.
Divided into three parts with 20-year intervals in between, Burke's superb new Irene Kelly novel (after 1999's Edgar-winning Bones) is a literary triumph. In 1958, Conn O'Connor, a brash young reporter for the Las Piernas News-Express, is taken under the wing of veteran Jack Corrigan, who is nearly killed after claiming to have seen a blood-spattered car buried on a farm. In 1978, another brash youngster Irene Kelly in turn is taken under O'Connor's wing. By 1998, Irene is the veteran, mentoring two rookies. The sweep of events over such a long time span imparts a certain majesty. There are murders, to be sure, but little mystery, since it's clear early on who is responsible. The deaths serve more as a tragic link across the years and to the heartbroken families who grow old awaiting resolution. Several secondary characters from Burke's earlier novels appear in part three, furthering the sense of events coming full circle. In the end, it's the human relationships that stick in the mind and the heart. A few flaws dangling loose ends, too many summaries and, most serious, a disappointing slide back into standard crime-fiction mode don't diminish the book's overall strength and enormous charm. With its multiple rich story lines, dead-on newsroom atmosphere and friendships that deepen through the decades, this is an extremely satisfying work. FYI:Burke has also received Agatha and Macavity awards as well as the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award.