Louis Klein has returned to his old Philadelphia neighborhood, living in the house where his mother was killed, her murder still unsolved. When Sarah, the wife of his former partner Sam Blackwell, asks Klein to find her missing teenaged daughter, Carol Ann, he finds himself reliving his own past and career with the Philly PD.
A tough former cop turned P.I., Klein had no stomach then for the petty graft and corruption of city politics and feels no different now. Still, years ago he promised Sam Blackwell that he would look out for his family if Sam died before Lou, a serious commitment to a man like Klein.
Beginning his search for Carol Ann, Klein pricks the surface of his old neighborhood, the long-buried past releasing a noxious gas of regret and bad decisions, a life defined by the loss of innocence and integrity. Back in his motherís house, Lou is unsure whether he can put the bad years to rest or if he has made a terrible mistake in agreeing to help his ex-partnerís widow find her daughter.
Father's Day: A Mystery is an appropriate title for this edgy novel, Klein tied to the past, his personal life in tatters. When Klein agrees to assist Sarah, distracted by memories of better days, he opens a Pandoraís box of self-recrimination and personal failure, his life a reflection of stubbornness and a career fighting bad guys to assuage the demons of his youth.
Unable to break free from the entanglements of his old life, Klein flirts with danger at every step, a man in search of his soul in a barren terrain of greed, graft and murder in a city rife with corruption. Maybe Lou isnít part of this scene, but he is certainly conversant with the movers and shakers, the cops and the criminal underbelly of a familiar world.
There arenít many characters to like in this noir-ish mystery, not even the rough-edged, hard-drinking, guilt-ridden Klein. This is city life with all its warts, the human face of Philadelphia, where smooth-talking crooks bribe their way to respectability, where even the cops have fallen prey to the easy vices that follow power and opportunity.
Slashing open his past with a vengeance, including a short relationship with Sarah Blackwell, Klein has walked into a nightmare, one of the last brave men who will not concede to the dark side. Itís ugly and itís dirty, and Gilman treads this path with panache.