Then She Vanished

Mysterious Book Report No. 418

by John Dwaine McKenna

California private eye Roland Ford—a tough ex-marine, grieving widower and insightful detective—takes on his toughest case yet in author T. Jefferson Parker’s fourth and newest novel: Then She Vanished, (G.P. Putnam’s sons, $27.00, 338 pages, ISBN 978-0-525-53767-0).

The novel begins when Ford is hired by state representative Dalton Strait—who’s in the midst of a tight reelection campaign—to find his wife Natalie, who has disappeared without a trace.  She suffers from bipolar disorder . . . and she’s done it before . . .  eventually turning up in Las Vegas, 100 grand in the hole.  It ought to be a simple and straightforward missing persons case, but it isn’t, because the more we learn about Dalton Strait, the more complex and deadly Ford’s job becomes.

Like a lot about California, much about Strait is an illusion.  Is he a war hero or a coward?  An honest politician or a crook who’s abusing the public trust?  And finally, is Natalie in danger, having been abducted, or is Dalton Strait engineering an elaborate campaign hoax in an attempt for sympathy and publicity?  Is Natalie a victim, a participant, or a runaway who doesn’t want to be found?  Ford’s doubts about his flaky client get bigger with every new revelation.

Meanwhile, something called the Chaos Committee is setting off bombs in post offices, and sending them to public officials, urging people to join the anarchy and promising more of the same still to come.  And just how does the disappearance of Natalie Strait tie in . . . or does it?  As Roland Ford is drawn deeper and deeper into the quagmire that surrounds his client, his own life is increasingly at risk, and his mounting doubts multiply the chances that he won’t solve this complex southern California whodunit from the hand of a master!


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