by S.J. Rozan
: Despite the hype, this eighth novel featuring New York PIs Lydia Chin and Bill Smith from Shamus- and Anthony-award winner Rozan isn't quite up to her usual high standard. After 2001's Reflecting the Sky (which Chin narrated), it's Smith's turn to tell the story, which here concerns his teenage nephew, Gary Russell, the athlete son of his estranged sister Helen. When Gary is arrested for pick-pocketing in Manhattan, the boy asks for his uncle's help. Gary denies running away from his Warrenstown, N.J., home he was doing something important. Then the boy vanishes, drawing Smith and Chin into a nightmarish case in which a small town's obsession with its high school football team overwhelms standards of justice and morality. When a teenage girl who dated Gary and was selling drugs to her classmates dies mysteriously, the police suspect Gary. He's disappeared during Warrenstown's most important week, when the football team trains at an intensive sports camp culminating in a game that attracts college scouts. Then another teenager, a despised nonathlete, disappears. Two computer whizzes join the detectives in finding the answers to present crimes by solving an old murder. This disturbing, suspenseful, but often shrill and repetitive novel allows the author to reveal Smith's troubled childhood as he, with Chin's encouragement, begins to understand it. In showing how we set priorities that can create monsters, Rozan also points to deep flaws in our society. Agent, Steve Axelrod. (Feb. 25)Forecast: With a national author tour, an excerpt in the paperback edition of Reflecting the Sky (Jan.) and supportive blurbs from the likes of Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, Linda Fairstein and Greg Rucka, this title should keep Rozan's momentum going.
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