Minotaur Books, August 2023, $ 28
Dead and Gone
by Joanna Schauffhausen
Minotaur Books, August 2023, $28
In author Joanna Schaffhausen's third Annalisa Vega thriller, the Chicago police detective finds herself investigating the mysterious death of Sam Tran, a former cop-turned-PI. Annalisa's investigation takes a surprising turn when the dead man's phone starts ringing—and on the other end is her brother Vinny! Having sent one brother to jail for murder and getting her father confined to house arrest for covering that crime up, Annalisa isn't exactly the most popular member of her family or with her fellow cops. So the last thing she needs is another family member mixed up in one of her cases.
As it turns out, Vinny had hired Tran to investigate a possible stalker targeting his daughter, Quinn. But nothing had come of the investigation so far. As Annalisa and her partner Nick dig into the case, they find themselves looking at Tran's open cases for possible motives for his murder. As they search, the detective duo find themselves turning up questions—and answers—to Tran's cases as well. As they follow each successive clue, they learn that Quinn just might have a stalker after all. And when another coed goes missing, the heat is on. Stymied by a lack of jurisdiction on the college campus, there is little they can do in an official capacity though.
In order to protect her niece and track down Sam's killer, Annalisa is determined to bring a crazed killer to justice. But will it be in time to stop any more bodies from falling, or will she be faced with losing more of her family?
There are a lot of individual story elements for readers to follow in Dead and Gone. With so many disparate plotlines, the writer risks giving short shrift to some of them so that things can eventually tie together as the reader comes to the story's resolution. But Schaffhausen does a masterful job of weaving each of her separate plots together. Readers will be amazed how tightly woven the overall complexity of the narrative turns out to be.
Annalisa is dealing not only with a bunch of crimes to investigate, but also the upheaval in her personal life. From feeling exiled from her family to potential changes for her on the most intimate of levels, the detective has a lot on her plate. But it is her headstrong determination to bring justice to the victim(s) of this story that will leave readers breathless as they read each successive chapter.
Schaffhausen's Dead and Gone is a race through dark places that propels mystery fans toward a shocking conclusion. Excellent plotting and rich characterization make this one of the most singularly entertaining thrillers of the year.