cover image Fadeaway Girl

Fadeaway Girl

Martha Grimes, Viking, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-670-02244-1

A 20-year-old kidnapping with faint echoes of the Lindbergh case drives Grimes's convoluted fourth crime novel featuring Emma Graham, a direct sequel to 2005's Belle Ruin. Emma, a 12-year-old cub reporter who also helps out at the Hotel Paradise in La Porte, Md., where her mother's the cook, thinks that the accounts don't add up about the unsolved disappearance of Baby Fay Slade from the nearby Belle Rouen hotel. Emma's doubts center on the possible role of Fay's father, the shady Morris Slade; Morris's spoiled wife; his rich father-in-law; and his former neighbors. The abrupt reappearance of Morris Slade and the arrival of a smug new hotel employee raise further questions and end in sudden death. Grimes's strength is in her appealing characters, from the inquisitive Emma and her dipsomaniac great-aunt, Aurora, to the pretentious 16-year-old Ree-Jane Davidow and philosophical auto mechanic Dwayne, but gaps in logic, lack of red herrings, and frequent references to earlier entries in the series may put off some readers, especially those unfamiliar with the previous books. 4-city author tour. (Feb.)