Plot twists and turns heat up the first in a series of nine crime thrillers

This week’s book was a painful tale of loss and redemption. “Bad to the Bones” by James Harper is listed as one of his Evan Buckley thrillers.

Several years ago, Evan’s life imploded when his wife, Sarah, disappeared without a trace. After the police did little beyond a basic investigation, Evan left his job as a journalist and became a private detective. He spends most of his time searching for Sarah but must take some distasteful cases to pay the bills.

One such case propels him into another that nearly gets him killed. His most recent client, Kevin Stanton, hangs himself after Evan shows him photos of his wife and her lover — Stanton’s business partner, Hugh McIntyre. A pair of police detectives berate Evan, telling him he should “do something useful” with his life. The comment forces him to review everything he’s done since Sarah disappeared.

Late one night, Evan hears someone outside his office. By the time he reaches the door, the person is heading for her car. The next day he gets her name from Detective Guillroy. She is Linda Clayton.

One of the best things in Evan’s life is Tom Jacobson — a dentist, his landlord and font of information. He tells Evan that 10 years ago, young Daniel Clayton disappeared on his way home from school. Only two weeks later, his father disappeared, too.

Rumors had run wild. Bus driver Carl Hendricks swore Daniel never left the campus, hinting that one of his teachers had taken the boy. Others insist that Robbie Clayton and his lover killed Daniel, then ran off together, but there is no indication that this could have happened either. With no evidence, the case went cold, but Linda Clayton never quit working to find out what happened to her husband and son.

Suddenly, Evan has something useful to do. He could put his energies into finding out what happened to Daniel and Robbie. Letting his guard down proves dangerous, and Evan is attacked by Hugh McIntyre — leaving him with a broken nose and damaged ear.

A visit with the former police chief Faulkner brings up more questions than answers. The man is hiding something. Interviews with Carl Hendricks and Daniel’s teacher aren’t productive either, but Evan keeps digging. He gets his first thread when he researches how Hendricks could own such a nice home and property on a bus driver’s wages. Pieces begin to fall into place.

Carl Hendricks was originally Jason Saunders. He’d been tossed out of the Army and done prison time before his conviction was overturned. He is also the brother of Faulkner’s late wife. She convinced her parents to leave the property to Jason/Carl. Faulkner falsified the background check on Jason, who is now going by Carl Hendricks and he got a job driving school bus.

It isn’t enough to get the police to investigate, but Evan is more than willing to bend the law to follow a hunch. He hides his car and searches Hendricks’ house. He doesn’t find any evidence but does learn that someone from Hendricks’ past is living at the house with him.

Before he can leave the house, Detectives Guillroy and Ryder arrive looking for Hendricks. They are furious with Evan and order him to stay away from Hendricks, but the events of the day convince him that they’ve overlooked a special hideaway, and he’s determined to find it. Nothing could prepare Evan for what he finds or the horrors that follow.

In the end the mysteries are solved, and Evan survives, barely. Later, Linda Clayton reminds him that this case offers him hope that one day Sarah will be found, too. Hope is what Evan must cling to now.

We can only hope we will return soon to what we consider normal. Until then, your public library has online books to keep us reading. Just check it out.


BOOK: “Bad to the Bones”

AUTHOR: James Harper

PUBLISHER: James Harper Books

PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2017

PAGES: 311