Missing Persons: A Buddy Steel Mystery

Michael Brandman. Poisoned Pen, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0806-5

LAPD homicide detective Burton “Buddy” Steel, the narrator of this highly readable if shallow series launch from Brandman (Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues and two other Jesse Stone novels), moves back to the small town of Freedom, Calif., to work as a deputy sheriff after his sheriff father is diagnosed with ALS. Buddy’s first case involves the town’s celebrity, TV preacher Barry Long Jr., whose wife seems to be missing and whose money has also apparently vanished. Barry’s sister, Maggie, who’s “statuesque and leggy, narrow and lithe with proper curves in all the right places,” plays the femme fatale role. Buddy faces the occasional bit of danger (he essentially shrugs off a shoulder shot from a hollow point fired from a .357 magnum), but a distinct lack of betrayals or even significant plot twists, and no examination of Buddy’s strained relationship with his father, make this book too straightforward an exercise in contemporary noir. (Sept.)