All Day and a Night
A new installment in Alafair Burke’s Ellie Hatcher series is always welcome, and all the more so when it is as good as ALL DAY AND A NIGHT, her latest addition. I am a sucker for police procedural novels, and the Hatcher series is among the best of those currently being published. Burke’s new book starts out perfectly, with a prelude to the murder that kickstarts an investigation that in turn moves backward and forward in time. The narrative then segues into a separate investigation in which Hatcher, using her double-threat powers of observation and interrogation, wraps up a killer in short order. If you so desired, you could stop right there after a few pages, but you won’t want to do that. What follows leads to Hatcher’s most complex case to date.
Following the roll-up of one case, Hatcher has very little time to congratulate herself before a new --- and far less welcome --- matter is dumped on the collective lap of herself and J.J. Rogan, her partner in law enforcement. The murder case with which they are presented is almost two decades old, but it is not a cold case; indeed, a suspect named Anthony Amaro pled guilty and is serving time, even as the file is open on their desks. Amaro stood trial for only one murder, but his conviction closed the books on several others.
"The tight writing, perfect pacing, and complex but well-presented plotting make it compelling reading from beginning to end. And you’ll leave hungry for the next one."
Now, though, an anonymous letter alleges that Amaro was never the killer. Worse, the real murderer is still at large and has been killing women over the intervening years, with his most recent victim being Helen Brunswick, a high-profile psychotherapist who was slaughtered in her office. It would be easy to dismiss the letter and the allegations but for the fact that the anonymous sender exhibits a familiarity with elements of the Brunswick murder and the prior killings attributed to Amaro that were never revealed to the public at large.
Dropping the case on Hatcher and Rogan causes some prickly feelings to arise. The pair already has plenty to do and are not exactly enthused about second-guessing the work of good policemen who conducted a thorough investigation and ultimately assisted in obtaining a conviction. Furthermore, the bearer of the request is none other than Max Donovan, Hatcher’s live-in significant other. Donovan is acting, in his words, as a representative of the New York District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The D.A.’s office wants a “fresh-look” team to re-examine the case in light of the allegations, and Donovan, feelings aside, thinks that Hatcher and Rogan are the best.
The reopening is not without significant pitfalls. A prominent celebrity defense attorney gets into the proceedings, assisted by the sister of one of the original murder victims whose death was linked to Amaro. And, as they anticipated, Hatcher and Rogan don’t exactly become popular with their fellow officers when they begin reopening a case that was successfully closed 18 years before. What they discover, however, is that the evidence isn’t entirely open and shut. Someone is still out there, killing in a manner that claimed victims long before. And the questions that hang over everything: Who sent the anonymous letter? And how do they know details of the case with which only the police are familiar?
Burke once again delivers the goods with ALL DAY AND A NIGHT. The tight writing, perfect pacing, and complex but well-presented plotting make it compelling reading from beginning to end. And you’ll leave hungry for the next one.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 13, 2014