“All the Best Lies,” Minotaur Books, by Joanna Schaffhausen
Forty years ago in Las Vegas, Reed Markham’s biological mother was stabbed to death as he lay nearby in his crib. The case was never solved.
Now, Reed and his adopted sisters agree to take DNA tests to learn more about their ancestry. What begins as a fun family project results in a shock. Their father, powerful Virginia politician Angus Markham, turns out to be Reed’s biological parent.
How could that be? How did Angus meet Reed’s mother and what was the nature of their relationship? Why did he keep his paternity secret? Does he know something about the murder? Might he even be the killer?
Reed heads for Nevada to find out. Along the way, he enlists his friend Ellery Hathaway, a suspended Massachusetts cop with a troubled history and her own daddy problems.
“All the Best Lies” marks the third time author Joanna Schaffhausen has teamed them up, but their history goes back farther than that. As a teenager, Ellery was kidnapped and tortured by a serial killer. Her dramatic rescue by an FBI agent was big national news. That agent was Reed. After Ellery became a police officer, she and Reed worked together on murder investigations in Schaffhausen’s first two crime novels, “The Vanishing Season” and “No Mercy.”
Now, as they pursue the murder of Reed’s mother, the emotional stakes are high, the suspect list grows and someone out there wants to make sure they don’t succeed. The writing is crisp, the suspense is intense and the fast-paced tale ends with a twist no one is likely to see coming.
Even so, the most appealing thing about this fine series is the complex, evolving relationship between the protagonists. Ellery is a damaged young woman who understandably shuns romantic entanglements. Reed, a divorced father, is protective of the girl he once saved but is increasingly drawn to her courage and beauty.
With each novel, they circle each other, drawing ever closer before partially pulling back. The author handles their emotional dance with keen insight and sensitivity.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”