The Skelly Man (1995), but his superb third outing shows the Lowell, Mass.,"/>

GOOFY FOOT: An Alex Rasmussen Mystery

David Daniel, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-32349-3

It's been a long time since Alex Rasmussen's last appearance, in Daniel's The Skelly Man (1995), but his superb third outing shows the Lowell, Mass., PI at the top of his form as he takes on a missing persons case that spirals from a deceptively simple beginning into a convoluted and increasingly dangerous search. A teenage girl, Michelle Nickerson, whose parents divorced when she was five, is supposed to be with her father, Ben Nickerson, in the town of Standish, where Ben grew up. But her mother hasn't heard from her and can't locate either of them. Rasmussen's initial probes unearth only vague sightings and possibilities. Gradually, more sinister scenarios connected to Ben's past and Standish's future emerge. With a fine feel for small-town life, the author skillfully draws on the radical changes that have occurred in places like Standish in recent decades and depicts a complex cast of suspects, allies, outcasts and good guys. Rasmussen's faults, foibles and grit, however, carry the load. Readers will want to scurry to find Daniel's earlier books in the series, though if they come across his and Chris Carpenter's Murder at the Baseball Hall of Fame (1996), they may be disappointed to find it isn't in the same league. (Feb. 9)

FYI: Heaven Stone (1994), the first Rasmussen book, won St. Martin's 1993 contest for Best First Private Eye Novel.

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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