In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni gives the reader two crime mysteries in one. There is the murder of a soon-to-be ex-husband by either the soon-to-be ex-wife or the son (the only family member that does not get the lengthy prefix) in 2016. At the same time, there is the investigation of a “cold case” murder which occurred in 1976. Both murders will be investigated by the same detective. While I could claim that the two murders have no connection, there is a case that can be made establishing a connection. So we have one novel, two murders and lots of circles within circles of smaller mysteries. This is a novel that will engage your attention or you will sink in confusion. Bookmarking helps.
When Tracy responded as the lead detective to a homicide scene involving the murder of a soon-to-be ex-husband by the soon-to-be ex-wife, she felt confident of a quick resolution to the investigation. She had faith in the commonly held truth that the killer was often a family member. In this case, a divorce was in progress; there was an obvious motive. Then there was the surprising admission by the wife that she had shot her husband. Things were looking great until the wife’s lawyer showed up. He was also the wife’s father and had a reputation as the lawyer to be avoided whenever possible. Atticus was contentious, fierce, and dogged in pursuit of a favorable outcome for his clients. And this client was his daughter, even though she had admitted to the shooting. But that was OK because a few days later the son also admitted to the shooting.
With all of this confessing going on, it would seem Tracy would be very busy trying to sort out the truth. But no, she had partners to do the drudge paperwork and follow-ups. Her friend Jenny, the sheriff in nearby Klickitat County, had asked for Tracy’s help in opening a cold case that Jenny’s father had kept a private file for and which was passed on to Jenny. The development of DNA and other technologies led Jenny to believe a new investigation was warranted. Tracy’s participation was to ensure the absence of bias. The cold case had elements of racial prejudice as the victim was Kimi Kanasket, a Native American.
The cold case is covered in more detail than the present day murders. New technology is explained in detail. As witnesses are interviewed in the latter stages of their lives, it appears that there may be more than one murderer, or two, or three, or four. Whether one murderer or multiple suspects, all parties to the crime except the victim have gotten older and have established positions in the local business community.
With two crimes in play, there are at least two conclusions to the book. There might be three if the reader is interested in finding some connection between the cases. I was surprised by all of the several conclusions. This book was fun to read. It is part of the Tracy Crosswhite series and I am sure I will read more novels in the series.