cover image Strawberry Sunday: A John Marshall Tanner Novel

Strawberry Sunday: A John Marshall Tanner Novel

Stephen Greenleaf. Scribner Book Company, $23 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-684-84954-6

At the end of Past Tense (1997), the previous mystery featuring veteran PI John Marshall Tanner, readers might have wondered whether or not the San Francisco shamus would survive a particularly bloody shoot-out. But a good gumshoe is tough to kill, and Tanner is back. As his new adventure begins, Marsh is recovering physically from being nearly exsanguinated, and emotionally from the death of his old friend Charley Sleet. As he slowly mends, he meets a young woman, Rita Lombardi, on his daily walks in the hospital corridors. She is recovering from surgery to correct serious birth defects that had crippled both legs. For the first time in her life, she feels free and excited about her future, and her optimism lifts Marsh's spirits. After his release, he learns that she has been stabbed to death. Her death seems impossibly tragic to him, and so he sets out to find out who killed Rita. He starts by visiting her hometown of Haciendas, a small company town in the Salinas Valley, a strawberry-growing area in Monterey County. Everyone there seems to owe their livelihood to the Gelbride family, the local agricultural kingpins. As he digs into the circumstances of Rita's life and death, Marsh discovers that she had been working to improve working conditions for the laborers on the Gelbride strawberry farms. Everyone around her seems to think she was a saint--but perhaps she was also a revolutionary. The Tanner books often have been built around a specific social or political issue, and this one is no exception. Greenleaf takes a long, hard look at the miserable conditions in which many farmworkers live and toil, and builds a complex, absorbing plot around the topic. (Feb.)