Plot or Premise
Private Investigator Jeri Howard is back and she’s lost a client. Rob Lawter comes to Jeri and retains her services, tells her that he’ll brief her later, but then takes a header out of his apartment window — suicide, accident or murder? Jeri investigates and takes a job as a legal secretary (her previous employment) at the company where Rob worked as a paralegal. All she has is a determination to help her now-dead client and an anonymous threatening note he received warning him about “blowing the whistle”. Lots of people enter stage left, and most of them stick around for the duration making it hard for Jeri to pin them down. Was it one of the lawyers? Was it the corporate bigwigs who took over the company in a hostile takeover and are they going to take the company apart piece-by-piece? Was it the plant managers conspiring to hide some terrible secret? Was it the brother-in-law who is trying to convince everyone that Rob committed suicide? And what do Rob’s neighbours know about what happened that night?
What I Liked
There are no super-human powers of deduction shown here by Jeri. She is a plodder — one piece of the puzzle at a time, turning it around and around to see if it fits anywhere. And a lot of the time, she doesn’t know what to do with the pieces and doesn’t try to make them fit anywhere. The writing is up to Dawson’s normal first-rate level and it is particularly interesting to see how Jeri goes about her non-investigating tasks around the office. The office, and the office politics, are made real by describing Jeri’s experiences — all of them, including the rules for working the photocopier. They set the tone for the workplace and most writers would have left them out. Dawson includes them, and the story is better for having them.
What I Didn’t Like
Jeri can be a bit of a dunce at times. Several “clues” leap off the page at the reader, but Jeri misses them, or rather, completely misses the significance — at the time. There are a couple like that, so quite often the reader knows where the story is going when Jeri apparently doesn’t, and it is only to the credit of Dawson’s writing that you don’t say “Hurry up and get there already.” However, at the end, Dawson doesn’t play fair — there are two “clues” that turn everything around for Jeri, the final pieces of the puzzle, and the reader doesn’t get to see them until the solution is revealed. “Foul!”, I cry.
The Bottom Line (★★★★☆)
Worth digging this one out for a read.