PI Bill Smith is surprised to get a call from the cops telling him his 15-year-old nephew, Gary, has been picked up and is asking for him. Smith hasn't seen Gary in years and wasn't even aware that the family was living nearby. Smith gets Gary released and at his apartment, Gary tells him the family has settled in Warrenstown, NJ but that's it. When Smith questions him further, Gary runs away.

Smith heads to NJ to confront his sister Helen, Gary's mom. Helen is distraught so he decides to investigate. He learns that Gary had been on the high school football team and that the town is fanatical about its athletes. He traces Gary's footsteps and finds he was at a party before he disappeared. Smith goes to the house where the party was and finds it a wreck. He also finds a teenaged girl raped and dead. Did Gary do this?

Suddenly the town becomes a closed book, but Smith soon learns that something similar happened with a football team 23 years earlier, and that the scandal of the past is causing the problems of the day.

With a strong, sure hand, S.J. Rozan tells a hard-hitting tale that rings with authenticity. Maintaining a high level of suspense, Ms. Rozan does a superb job of exposing the nasty underbelly of a town obsessed with high school athletics. (Feb., 328 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg