It would be a lovely surprise to learn that William Heffernan is about to publish another book featuring Harry Devlin. Devlin is assigned to the Tampa Homicide Division where it is generally taken as gospel that Harry can talk to the dead. This is an outstanding book that should not be missed.
“Harry Santos and his brother Jimmy died on June 7, 1985….The boys were 10 and six years old….when the boys were unconscious Lucy dragged them into the garage….she carefully folded their hands across their chests, placed small silver crosses on their foreheads, and covered their eyes with hand towels….she turned and walked quickly to the car….and started the engine.” A neighbor heard the car running in the garage and called 911. Both boys had stopped breathing and neither had a heartbeat but Harry was revived; Jimmy was not. When Harry joined the police it was with the name of his adoptive parents, the Doyles. But everyone just referred to Harry as the Dead Detective. His reputation in the Tampa Homicide Division included the belief that the dead talked to the Dead Detective.
Harry and his partner, Vicky Stanopolis, are called to the location of a body in a game preserve. The woman is dressed for a night on the town and her face is covered with an elaborate mask. When Harry removes the mask, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the identity of the victim. Darlene Beckett was notorious in Florida, if not the entire United States. Her face had been on the news for months. Darlene Beckett was a school teacher who had pled guilty to the sexual assault of one of her students, a fourteen year-old boy. Darlene had accepted a plea in order to avoid a trial at which the victim would have had to testify. No one believed that Darlene had done it for the benefit of the boy. Darlene was sentenced to house arrest for three years. She had to wear an ankle monitor and be in her home by 10:00 pm. Someone had given Darlene assistance in removing the monitor and Darlene was never home at 10:00 pm.
There were a lot of people who hated Darlene, most especially the parents of the boy she had assaulted. And there was also the Reverend Waldo of the First Assembly of Jesus Christ the Lord. The reverend made it clear to his very large congregation that the victim, who had been a member of that congregation, was as guilty as Darlene Beckett because he hadn’t told the church group exactly what had happened. The Rev. Waldo used his sermons to encourage the members of his flock to see to the punishment of Darlene. Did someone decide to follow the preacher’s guidance?
As more people who had connections to Darlene Beckett die, Harry finds himself dealing with a personal complication in his life. He receives notice from the Florida Department of Corrections that his mother has a parole hearing scheduled and, this time, she may win her freedom.
Although the cover of the book may be somewhat salacious, the book is not. This is a straightforward police procedural that gives only the slightest hint of the personal lives of the main characters. All the nasty things happen off the page. The book is good enough to keep the reader reading. I hope there will be more Dead Detective books.