“Dead and Gone,” by Joanna Schaffhausen (Minotaur)
A private eye named Sam Tran is dead, hanged from a tree in a local cemetery, and Chicago P.D. Detective Annalisa Vega catches the case. Tran was once on the job himself, but as it turns out, that’s not the only reason the case is fraught.
Vega figures the death is most likely related to a case Tran had been working on, of which there were three. Two are cold cases: A young woman had hired him to discover what happened to her mother, who disappeared more than 30 years ago; and a man had hired him to figure out who killed his cheating wife and her lover in a motel room more than 20 years ago.
However, the third case makes things more than a little awkward for Vega. Her brother Vincent had hired Tran to catch a mysterious stalker who had been harassing his daughter Quinn and other female students on their college campus. Unsurprisingly, Vega’s first priority is protecting Quinn. This proves problematic since the college is located outside of the Chicago P.D.s jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Det. Vega and her partner Nick Carelli, who also happens to be her ex-husband, are frequently distracted by the need to catch the Chicken Bandit, a violent creep in a chicken mask who is on a convenience-store robbery spree.
“Dead and Gone” is Joanna Schaffhausen’s eighth crime novel — and the third featuring Vega. In it, the author keeps readers guessing by offering a multitude of suspects for the stalking case, both cold cases, and the murder of Tran. Eventually she brings all four to a successful conclusion. For good measure, she and her partner nail the Chicken Bandit as well.
Readers of this fine series already know that Vega is not trusted by her colleagues because she once turned in her own father, a retired Chicago cop, for covering up a long-ago murder by another family member. As in every Schaffhausen novel, the suspenseful plot is combined with a thoughtful treatment of family tensions and the toll police work takes on a dedicated officer. The characters, including the many stalking suspects, are well drawn, and the prose is tight and vivid.
By the end of the story, Vega is mentally exhausted, doubting whether she is cut out for police work. This leaves readers wondering what the author has in mind for her next.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”