Originally published in 1970, this was the first book in Joseph Hansen's series featuring private eye Dave Brandstetter. The series would ultimately run for twelve books, through A Country of Old Men, which appeared in 1991. Dave Brandstetter was an insurance company investigator, but, inevitably, he wound up investigating a murder or two in each of the books in the series. What set this series apart was the fact that Brandstetter was, if not the first, then certainly one of the first openly gay detectives to populate the world of the private eye novel. At a time when the genre was still populated by macho, tough guy and often homophobic detectives like Mike Hammer, Brandstetter stood apart as a tough, smart private dick whose love life was a major theme of the series.
Entertainer Fox Olson had just achieved his life-long dream of success with a successful radio program and a certain best-selling book in the offing when his car plunged off a bridge during a violent storm. The car is found under the bridge, but Olson's body is not. Olson's widow insists that the body has simply washed down the river and will be discovered in due course. She adamantly insists that Dave Brandstetter's company should pay the insurance benefit. Virtually everyone agrees with the grieving widow, but Dave is reluctant to pay a claim when there is no body. Brandstetter ultimately comes to believe that Olson is still alive and that his death was faked. And in spite of the obstacles that virtually everyone places in his wake, he is determined to find the truth at the bottom of Fox Olson's disappearance.
At the same time, Dave is grieving the death of Rod, his long-time lover, who has recently succumbed to cancer. The question becomes whether Dave can fight through the pain and heartache that threatens to immoblilize him to follow the threads of a complicated case. This is a book that should appeal to anyone who enjoys private-eye novels and who is looking for a well-written and unique approach to the genre.