Buried on Avenue B
BURIED ON AVENUE B is Peter de Jonge’s second offering in the Darlene O’Hara series, and he offers up a compelling and puzzling mystery narrative peppered with memorable characters, both primary and secondary. None of them are more interesting than O’Hara herself, a driven and likable NYPD homicide detective. In her mid-30s with a 21-year-old son, O’Hara couldn’t be more different from Ed McBain’s Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct. Yet I was reminded of him, and that august series, time and again. Yes, it’s that good.
"O’Hara is a wonderful character, fully supportive...of her son’s endeavors, even as she is a walking train wreck that somehow always manages to stay on track. In BURIED ON AVENUE B, she shares equal billing with the mystery that forms its core. It is a puzzle as perplexing as any you are likely to encounter this year..."
Narrated in the third-person present, BURIED ON AVENUE B finds O’Hara confronted with a confounding puzzle, one that will take her far from the environs of her Manhattan South --- nicknamed “Manhattan Soft, due to its relatively low homicide rate --- to obtain justice and closure for a sympathetic victim. O’Hara barely has had time to digest her liquid breakfast (did I neglect to mention that she subscribes to the theory that, as far as alcohol consumption is concerned, it is always 5:00 somewhere?) when a home health aide shows up at the precinct with an interesting story. One of her patients, who appears to be laboring under some form of intermittent dementia, has confessed to murdering a large black man and burying him in a local park. O’Hara and fellow detective Augustus Jandorek interview the patient, who gives them just enough consistent information that they can justify a dig at the alleged burying place.
A body is found, but it is that of a young child, who appears to have been buried with greater respect and reverence than he received while alive. There are some clues found at the gravesite, and the forensic examination offers up a few more, but for the most part, what is found is more confounding than illuminating. O’Hara receives a tenuous lead from an unexpected source that takes her to Sarasota, Florida, and a colorful and extremely competent local detective named Connie Wawrinka. The two uncover a series of seemingly unrelated occurrences that relate back to O’Hara’s investigation in New York, and to a subculture that most people are at least aware of but rarely come into contact with. By story’s end, justice is done, and with a delicious bit of irony as well.
O’Hara is a wonderful character, fully supportive (in more ways than one) of her son’s endeavors, even as she is a walking train wreck that somehow always manages to stay on track. In BURIED ON AVENUE B, she shares equal billing with the mystery that forms its core. It is a puzzle as perplexing as any you are likely to encounter this year, a fact that makes the plausible solution that it presents all the more wondrous. Up to this point primarily known for his collaborative efforts with James Patterson, de Jonge has earned himself a permanent place on this reviewer’s “must read” list.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 27, 2012