cover image Flesh and Blood

Flesh and Blood

Thomas H. Cook. Putnam Publishing Group, $17.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13409-8

Rich in character, complex in plot, Cook's second Frank Clemons novel, after the much-praised Sacrificial Ground , finds the former homicide detective relocated in New York. Now a private eye, Frank lives with Karen on the upper East Side, but he is falling out of love and becoming increasingly aware that his real sympathies lie with Manhattan's less-privileged citizens. That's one reason why he is drawn to the case of Hannah Karlsberg. Hannah, in her 70s, was brutally murdered (her right hand chopped off) in her apartment; her employer, a high fashion designer, hires Frank to locate Hannah's next-of-kin so the body can be released and buried. But Hannah's past is full of gaps and contradictions, and Frank is soon on a trail that begins in the Lower East Side sweatshops of the 1930s, where Hannah was a forceful strike leader for the American Garment Workers' Union. The scent then leads to a small village in Colombia, and ends in a settlement house in Brooklyn. Frank's investigation is steeped in a deep personal, lyrically evoked sorrow; talking with Hannah's old co-workers, he uncovers dark deeds and omissions that resonate with his own growing sense of isolation and betrayal. Cook constructs a many-layered and shimmering tale in which the history, locale and personality build to an unsuspected, satisfying end. BOMC alternate; Detective Book Club and Mysterious Book Club main selections. (Jan.)