If you ever read The Beach House, one of three books de Jonge wrote with Patterson and found it jaw-dropping, get ready for Buried on Avenue B – de Jonge’s solo performance. It is probably best to live in New York to conjure it up so realistically. You can almost smell the streets in this novel about murder.
The detective, Darlene O’Hara, drinks grapefruit juice and vodka for breakfast so right away you are aware that she is not exactly a femme fatale. She is a mother who loves her musician son, but she is far more than that. That is a dramatic aside. Her character was introduced in de Jonge’s first book which you will want to read to discover more of what makes her tick. And tick she does.
A caretaker comes to Homicide South in Manhattan with a tale told by her patient, a former junkie and Alzheimer’s victim. Gus says he murdered his former partner and buried him under a tree in a garden park off Avenue B. True, that man has been missing for a decade, but Darlene’s boss is hardly convinced to go to all the trouble of digging up what might have been a murder—not even if it helps the station’s good stats.
When they do dig they find the body of a small child, a boy who was buried with great care, a baseball cap, a comic book, a CD, some pot, and a bottle of booze. Not quite what a pharaoh would need in the next world or even this one. Still, someone cared about the child. And it sure wasn’t Gus who just doesn’t know what happened to the body of the partner he says he killed if it’s not there.
Finding out who the victim is becomes Darlene’s obsession, and her early motherhood makes it even more critical to her personally to discover who murdered a child. She meets some boys who knew the victim, sees a haunting picture of who they say is the victim, and she is off and running. She goes to Florida where she meets a female cop not unlike herself – although she’s a lesbian (you’ll smile if not giggle at what happens to her) – who is determined to help Darlene solve the crime. The two women delve into the senior citizen community in Sarasota with characters so lovable and vulnerable they will make you squirm. Darlene, in one scene, will have you holding your breath with a risky but devilish tactic.
The trail leads back to New York where Darlene continues to pursue clues with determination and sincerity. She is a cop to trust, even by gypsies. Even though she puts her partner and herself in a situation that makes her wonder if she is even thinking, you know everything will be all right. Probably. Although you want to weep for the loss of the child by such dreadful villains, the plot never falters into sentimentality.
Any parent with a musician in the family will be right there with Darlene when she watches her son perform, although she tries to hide so as not to embarrass him, he knows she is there. You’d want her to be on your side as well, and you’ll be looking forward to her next case.
M.L. McFall is a retired teacher, professional massage therapist, customer service/research at Omega Books in Peachtree City, Georgia, and the author of Passports to Change, currently out of print.
A review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.