cover image Cold Case

Cold Case

Linda Barnes. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30614-0

In less capable hands, a tale about a 14-year-old literary sensation who's been missing and presumed dead for 24 years would be hard to believe. But Barnes's writing is so confident and her characters so engrossing that readers will have no trouble suspending disbelief for her seventh Carlotta Carlyle adventure (after Hardware). Adam Mayhew shows up on PI Carlyle's Cambridge, Mass., doorstep with the first chapter of a manuscript that he says could only have been penned by Thea Janis, who disappeared so long ago. When her clothes were later found on a beach, Thea Janis was presumed to be a suicide. But Mayhew, a relative of the author, insists that the manuscript--which makes reference to the fall of the Berlin Wall--proves she is alive and writing. Carlyle's task is to find the writer--with nothing to go on except that the gardener who worked at the private school the girl attended disappeared at the same time. At first, the nimble-minded Carlyle is skeptical that the manuscript is by Janis. But the more she reads, the more captivated she becomes--by the writing and the writer. And when Mayhew tries to get the manuscript back again, she's sure something big is afoot. Janis, it turns out, was a pseudonym for Dorothy Cameron, who came from a high-profile family. In fact, her brother, Garnet Cameron, is currently running for governor of Massachusetts. Why is the Cameron family so desperate to get the new manuscript back and Carlyle out of their lives? There are some preposterous turns, including allusions to JFK and Castro, and recovered memory plays a large role. But the pages keep turning, and Carlyle's wry voice is a bracing counterpoint to the lifestyles of the rich and famous it describes. Major ad/promo. (Apr.)