Seattle police psychologist Daphne Mathews has her hands full with a pregnant, addicted, runaway teenager, a murder victim's brother whose strange behavior unnerves her, and a deputy sheriff she once treated who's now stalking her. She's frightened enough to move in with Detective John LaMoia, a development that doesn't exactly thrill Lou Boldt, their boss and Daphne'sex-lover. But Lou's too busy with his own cases to brood over John and Daphne: the recent disappearances of two local women, and the death of Billy Chen, the nephew of Mama Lu, an old friend and a powerful figure in Seattle's Chinese community, which appeared to be an accident but turns out to have been murder. The only thing the disappearances and murder have in common is location; all three victims were last seen in a part of downtown built over the Underground, a dark and dangerous warren of buildings abandoned after the fire that leveled Seattle more than a hundred years ago.
While Seattle's Underground has been the setting for several mysteries by other authors (Earl Emerson, J.A. Jance), Pearson makes the most of its creepy-crawly atmosphere in a gripping thriller whose solid plotting pulls all of Daphne's, LaMoia's, and Boldt's cases together. It also wisely reconfigures the personal relationships among the three central characters, which bodes well for their future adventures in this long-running series (Middle ofNowhere, The Pied Piper). --Jane Adams
Seattle police detective Lou Boldt, Pearson's engaging cop hero, retired from the force a few years back when personal problems started stacking up, then returned when those same problems faded. These days, he's in more of a paper-shuffling role, letting his younger charges mix it up on the street. Taking center stage here, in the eighth Boldt entry (after Parallel Lies), are two longtime prominent series sidekicks, forensic pathologist Daphne Matthews and the skirt-chasing stud cop, John LaMoia. Together, they investigate the perplexing murder of a woman who was pushed off a bridge. The case turns creepy when the evidence against the prime suspect falls apart and the victim's brother, Ferrell Walker, simultaneously courts and lashes out at Matthews. Meanwhile, Boldt pursues his own case, following the trail of two missing women who appear to have been stalked before disappearing. As with many of Pearson's plots, the two story lines eventually mesh into a wild, drawn-out finale. The setting this time couldn't be better. It's Seattle's Underground, a subterranean ghost town of abandoned shops and homes now underneath the newer, more flood-resistant city built on top a century ago. It is within this spooky, cavernous landscape that Pearson's forte the manhunt bursts through with all its usual bone-tingling drama and suspense. And what of the somewhat marginalized Boldt? Longtime fans may feel a touch of sadness, yet Pearson ably layers Matthews's personality with new depths to make an appealingly quirky character. As for LaMoia, even he shows that he's more than just a pretty face with an insatiable sex drive.