The good news is that Henry Rios, the hero of several of Michael Nava's earlier thrillers (The Death of Friends, The Burning Plain) is back. The bad news, spelled out in the acknowledgments, is that "this book brings to an end this series of mysteries and my career as a mystery writer." If this is your first exposure to the author or his hero, you'll be as sorry to read the end note as Nava's justly deserved fan club.
Rios, a gay Hispanic lawyer, has been described as an "outsider" hero, dedicated to finding justice in a world where it seems to be a highly perishable commodity. His keen intelligence is matched by his vulnerability, in this case to the emotional demands placed on him by a sudden heart attack that leaves him wondering whether life is still worth living, and the news that his sister, a former nun, once had a daughter, who has been found and then lost again. Tracing Vicky and her 10-year-old son Angel isn't that difficult for Henry. An abused woman hiding from a violent ex-husband doesn't have that many ways to disappear. But there's something about Vicky that doesn't fit the abuse profile, and when she's charged with killing Angel's father, Henry is torn between his desire to free her and his sense that there's more to the story than she's telling him. There is, of course, but it's the multidimensionality of his central characters rather than the mysteries they're caught up in that drive Nava's perceptive, brilliantly explicated novels. Love in its many guises drives this one--love between Henry and John, the first man to touch Rios's heart in many years, and love for Angel, the nephew in whom he sees a chance to redeem his own unhappy childhood. Nava leaves his series hero in their good hands, with a new career as a judge ahead of him. And he leaves his devoted readers hoping he'll change his mind and bring Henry back again, perhaps this time from the bench instead of the bar. --Jane Adams