Rollover, by Susan Slater. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. Hardcover $24.95 (available in other editions).
There is good news for Florida mystery readers. Susan Slater has moved to Palm Coast from New Mexico and has brought along her highly praised talent. “Rollover” is her second novel featuring insurance investigator Dan Mahoney. A belated sequel to “Flash Flood” (2002), it is set in the small town of Wagon Mound, New Mexico. Dan, a seasoned pro in his early fifties, is sent to investigate the loss of a valuable necklace, most likely taken during a bank robbery. However, shortly before he gets there his car overheats and a friendly stranger gives him a ride. A rollover accident (if it was an accident) kills the driver, and Dan ends up in the hospital.
Once on the case, Dan is caught up in a criminal investigation that involves Federal agents as well as local law enforcement. Something just doesn’t add up: here’s a bank that has two million in deposits in the vault left untouched. The thieves had laboriously built a tunnel into the bank that accesses the safe deposit box area. Why all this trouble for a necklace when easy cash is on hand? What else of value was in the other boxes? Why were three boxes, located together, left untouched?
As the case develops, Dan discovers a web of secrets and lies regarding relationships among several of the townspeople.
For one thing, the bank itself is under investigation. The head of the bank is not too popular, having made many changes in his short period of authority that his staff didn’t like and that upset the townspeople. There seemed to be something going on between him and Penelope Kennedy, the daughter of elderly Gertrude whose bracelet is sometimes missing, sometimes not, and eventually found to have had its major gemstones secretly replaced with fakes.
Is the bank manager’s death a suicide – or a murder? In either case, what’s the motive? Is it guilt and fear of being found out – or did he just know too much to be left alive?
Something suspicious lingers in Penelope’s answers about her association with the bank and with a nearby agricultural research project headed by a scientist on a federal grant. She works at this project, which is developing new kinds of grass and other plants, much more often than she admits. Also, why do men in HAZMAT suits make clandestine deliveries of fertilizer to the facility? Or is it fertilizer? . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the September 17, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 18 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here Florida Weekly – Slater 1 and here Florida Weekly – Slater 2.