cover image The Pension Plan

The Pension Plan

Josiah Vencel. Mav, $12.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-578-23585-1

Reporter Owen Daniels, the hero of Vencel’s memorable mystery debut (after Culture Makers: A Worldview Approach to Re-engaging the World), has been laboring in obscurity covering local business for a Sunset Hills, Calif., newspaper and welcomes the chance to handle an additional beat—politics. Daniels successfully pitches a series about Sunset Hills’s unsung heroes, public servants, an idea inspired by his grandmother, Ruthie, who raised him following his parents’ deaths and was employed by the town. At her 79th birthday party, Ruthie says that two friends she used to work with, a year older than her and in apparent good health, each died in a matter of weeks, apparently from natural causes. After Daniels learns of two other similar fatalities among the retired municipal work force, he begins to suspect foul play and starts to investigate. The generous pensions promised to the retirees he interviews, including inflation-indexed increases and lifetime payouts for surviving spouses, leads him to conclude a sinister murder conspiracy is behind the deaths. Vencel, who spent 15 years working for public pension plans, deserves plenty of credit for coming up with a believable plot hinging on pensions, and has created characters, even minor ones, who feel realistic. Fans of Bruce DeSilva will be pleased. (Self-published)