The swindling of an elderly widow leads to “a greased-lightning tale of scam and counterscam” from an Edgar Award–winning author (Kirkus Reviews).
When a drunk driver kills her entire family, Florida retiree Irene Gustafson is left rich and alone. Between savings and life insurance, the death of her son and his family leaves her with nearly $300,000—a veritable fortune in a community where most live off social security. Following the advice of Ann Landers, Mrs. Gustafson hands the money over to an investment manager. The returns are steady until he starts investing in Willow Tree, a low-income housing development on the fringes of the Twin Cities. The money vanishes, and Mrs. Gustafson is destitute. That’s where Holland Taylor, Minneapolis private detective, comes in. His recently retired parents are Mrs. Gustafson’s neighbors, and they want Taylor to recover the old lady’s money. It seems impossible, but as he investigates Willow Tree he finds a twisted real-estate conspiracy with deep roots in city politics—and a vicious killer hired to protect the secret.
PI Holland Taylor is a former cop with an African American associate who covers his back, a high-level friend on the police force and a very smart lady who tries to keep him on the straight path. He also practices martial arts, brews exotic coffee and favors a special brand of local beer. But Housewright--who won an Edgar for best first novel with Taylor's debut in Penance (1996)--does more than merely echo Robert B. Parker's Spenser in this second episode: he tells a good story in a setting he makes his own. Taylor works out of Minnesota's Twin Cities, far from Boston; the black associate is Freddie (Sidney Poitier Fredricks), a venal and definitely downscale PI who wouldn't last two minutes up against Parker's Hawk. The cop friend keeps tossing Taylor into jail. The lady is Cynthia Grey, a lawyer who used to be a stripper. Taylor's martial arts practices may well compensate for his slight build. Housewright's plot is as open-faced as his genial homage. Asked by his father to help an 85-year-old neighbor recover the life savings stolen from her by Levering Field, an oily investment counselor, Taylor uses a cross-dressing computer genius to harass the swindler. But just as Field is ready to cave in, he's found dead--and somebody with very good aim is also shooting at Taylor. Housewright's wit, while making the most of the bow to Parker, should earn him an acclaim all his own.