“Long Gone,” by Joanna Schaffhausen (Minotaur)
Four veteran Chicago police detectives are known as The Fantastic Four for their long history of spectacular gang busts, so when one of them, Leo Hammond, is shot dead in his bed with his own gun, it’s a big case.
At the start of Joanna Schaffhausen’s “Long Gone,” the second novel in her new series featuring Detective Annalisa Vega, the young detective is working the scene when Hammond’s three surviving partners show up, demand to take over of the case, and are promptly rebuffed. Like many members of the Chicago P.D., they don’t trust Vega — not since she busted her own father, a retired member of the department, for covering up a long-ago murder by another family member.
However, the three also have another reason. They need Vega to arrest the obvious suspect and wrap the case up quickly because she’s very good at her job. If the investigation drags on, she might eventually uncover dark secrets they’ve kept under wraps for years.
The obvious suspect is Hammond’s much younger second wife, who stands to collect on his million-dollar life insurance policy. She was at home during the murder and tells a fantastic story about an intruder dressed in a black wetsuit complete with diving mask and flippers.
However, she is far from the only suspect. There’s Hammond’s first wife, who despises him, to say nothing of the hundreds of criminals he encountered over a long career. Prominent among them are David Edwards, recently released after serving time for killing a waitress at the sleazy Bass Lounge, and Moe Bocks, who Leo had been harassing ever since failing to prove the guy strangled his girlfriend more than two decades ago.
To make matters worse, Bocks is now dating Vega’s best friend, who refuses to believe warnings that the guy is dangerous. So, in violation of a direct order, Vega spends as much time perusing Bocks as she does investigating the Hammond murder.
The result is a fast-paced, multi-faceted series of investigations that make Vega a growing threat to the surviving Fantastic Three. In turn, they try to discredit her by framing her for both assault and murder.
Schaffhausen skillfully unwinds her twist-filled plot to a slam-bang conclusion. As with her six previous crime novels, her complex characters are well developed, and her prose, which has improved with each book, is first rate.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”