The Veiled Lagoon, by Henry Hoffman. Martin Sisters Publishing. 214 pages. Trade paper $15.95.
This is Mr. Hoffman’s second “Adam Fraley Mystery” and his fifth novel overall. The case Adam investigates comes about in an unusual way. A man named Charlton Quigley contacts him because is suspicious of the newspaper report about a young woman’s accidental death.
Quigley’s acquaintance with the late Vickie Murin stems from the fact that she was the waitress at a coffee shop he frequented. During their many conversations, Quigley had developed a sense of her character and circumstances that led him to mistrust the reported facts. He is willing to pay Adam, whose ad Quigley found at the back of his church’s newsletter, to look into the matter.
Oh, by the way: Vickie’s husband is a detective in the Sheriff’s Office, a man who seems to have gotten over his loss a bit too quickly.
Since the novel begins with a scene describing Vickie’s murder, that is not the mystery. Rather, as in the classic Columbo television series, the steps by which the criminal is brought to justice are the building blocks of suspense. The obligatory battle of wits between detective and perpetrator could loom larger in Mr. Hoffman’s novel, but there is plenty to hold the reader’s attention.
First and foremost is the introduction of a new character, let’s hope as a series regular. Tamra, whom Adam hires as a secretary and assistant (officially “office manager”), is a real treat for the reader. Her “bright steely demeanor,” her “discerning green eyes,” her “dark red hair” and her abundance of the critical ingredient called “moxie” add a force to the novel that makes this reader miss her when reading scenes from which she is absent.
Her intelligence, eagerness to learn, and desire for adventure all combine to make her a supercharged Della Street. There are signs of possible romance in the office, though Adam is still dazzled somewhat by his college mentor, a woman at least as fascinating as Tamra.
A series of chapters set in Siberia introduce us to fascinating natural and cultural landscapes. Why does Henry Hoffman take us there? When Adam discovers that Detective Murin is a fairly recent immigrant from Russia who has a childhood sweetheart, Alina, living in a Siberian town, he arranges a trip to deepen his understanding of his suspect’s background. Murin seems interested in bringing this woman back into his life – a motive for murdering Vickie. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 2, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, the January 8 Fort Myers edition, and the January 16 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here Florida Weekly – Veiled Lagoon 1 and here Florida Weekly – Veiled Lagoon 2