Written by Peter Quinn — Fintan Dunne, Quinn’s private detective from his pre-WW2 mystery Hour of the Cat, is just about to reluctantly hang up his hat. Retirement beckons and wife Roberta is looking forward to their new life in Playa de Oro, Florida. However, when media mogul Walter Wilkes dangles a 25-year-old mystery that intrigued the world until it was usurped by the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, and was consigned to the cold case archives, he just can’t say no to one last investigation. Quinn mixes fact with fiction to produce a possible solution to a mystery that has remained unsolved for the last 81 years.
On 6 August 1930, Joe Crater was dining with friends. At the end of the evening, the newly appointed Supreme Court judge for New York State got into a cab, waved goodbye to his companions and was never seen again. His disappearance occurred at a time when the US was slipping deeper into the Great Depression and political corruption was rife. At the time of Crater’s appointment to the judiciary, Franklin D Roosevelt had announced that an investigation was to be launched into judicial corruption. Judge Crater’s disappearance seems to be highly convenient but the question is: to whom?
When he disappeared Judge Crater was 41 years old, married and making a name for himself as a brilliant lawyer, with drive and political ambitions. He was a loyal and devoted husband, a paragon of virtue, but to the outside world, he was a womaniser who mixed in somewhat shady circles. His wife was either delusional or chose to turn a blind eye to his philandering.
A quarter of a century later, and Fintan Dunne is commissioned to take another look at the case and solve it before 6 August 1955. It soon becomes apparent that just as there people who would like to find out what happened to the judge, there are people who are just as determined to ensure that the matter is left forgotten. They will stop at nothing to stop Fintan from discovering the truth. However Dunne is not an easily deterred character. An ex-NYPD cop, he uses his contacts to access police files and gain access to witnesses and the detectives involved in the original investigation.
Quinn presents the reader with a variety of highly plausible reasons as to how and why Joseph Crater disappeared, but then creates his own equally logical explanation. This is a mystery that he has grown up with and it’s clearly captured his own imagination. He uses the known facts to skilfully weave a story that works to capture yours – it draws you into the mystery and leaves you wondering what really happened to our missing judge.
If you like the hardboiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, you can’t fail to like Quinn’s detective. Although the level of violence perhaps doesn’t reach the level you’d expect, he is doggedly determined to get to the bottom of the case and is unperturbed by danger. Fans of true crime and the Crater case will also be intrigued by Quinn’s theories and enjoy the opportunity to re-assess the case. Well worth a read!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars
Gerald Duckworth & Co