Schoenfield’s newest novel is a bit of a stretch, with a plot that would feel far more relevant in the ‘80s, however hard he works to propel the situations and the characters into the present, albeit in a less contemporary situation. Given the family background of the protagonist and her relatives in Bayonne, New Jersey, there is a case to be made for continuing criminal enterprise that has evolved to meet the demands of a tech-savvy environment. Certainly the theme is familiar: lies and betrayal, ultimately murder hidden behind layers of subterfuge.
After her husband, Bayonne cop Jack Hendricks, is found murdered on the job, pregnant wife Lucy is devastated, grief-stricken and unable to cope with the looming future without the man she loves. Lucy moves to Florida, takes up residence in her sister’s family’s guest house, and does her best to raise her fatherless son--despite the overwhelming grief that never seems to dissipate. After a few years Lucy starts a new chapter, returning to Bayonne to accept an appealing teaching position. Four-year-old Kevin arrives for the first time at the home Lucy once shared with Jack.
Everything changes when young Kevin--who never knew his father--begins to display erratic behavior and speech patterns. Certainly, this home is unfamiliar, but the child’s demeanor is inexplicable and deeply troubling. Back in the home they shared, Lucy feels closer to Jack than she has since his terrible death, slowly drawn back into the mystery of that life-changing murder. Making subtle inquiries of his partner, Lucy gets no satisfaction, frustrated but anxious to learn more when Kevin’s odd behavior accelerates. (Along with the present, the author inserts chapters from Jack’s investigation while he was alive, a growing suspicion of possible corruption in the department and a potential links to criminal enterprise. Though such details give the novel more depth, some things have to be accepted at face value).
New Jersey is the perfect location for the tale, with a long history of investigating organized crime, familiar terrain as the past collides with the present. There is a common thread between New Jersey’s past affiliation with organized crime and the possible corruption that led to Jack Hendricks death, his reputation stained with suspicion of involvement. This unfair judgment leads Lucy into the heart of the drama, forced to use her few resources to keep her little family safe from harm.
Afraid to trust the police--and terrified by a kidnapping engineered by a former mob boss--Lucy steps cautiously back into the environment she left behind, unsure whom to trust or where she’ll fit, afraid any misstep can bring trouble to her door. The “retired” crime boss, Dominic Lanza, is oddly comforting in spite of current circumstances and his reputation. Lucy is determined to makes the right decision, keeping her secrets close until she learns who is trustworthy and who is not. Eventually, she chooses to confide in the assistant prosecutor from Jack’s last infamous case, sure he will be able to guide her through the specifics of the investigation.
It is easier to ignore those pesky details as the mystery unfolds, Schofield developing characters and terrain with the enthusiasm of a man who is at home in a particular era, in a society that thrives just below the surface of legitimate society, good guys and bad changing roles. Making progress with the prosecutor’s assistance, Lucy finds herself receptive when he takes a romantic interest in her, something she hadn’t anticipated. Things finally begin to fall into place. In spite of some leaps of imagination, the author inhabits both his characters and geography colorfully, shaping a difficult future for a woman who has so nearly lost her way under a burden of grief. Not to be outdone, Hurricane Sandy arrives just in time to bedevil a drama growing increasingly violent and unpredictable.