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BURIED ON AVENUE B by Peter De Jonge: Book Review


“Fabulous” was the word I said out loud when I closed Buried on Avenue B, and I truly meant it.  This is one outstanding mystery.

Paulette Williams comes to Manhattan South to report a possible murder that may have taken place seventeen years ago.  Darlene O’Hara is a detective in Manhattan South, or Manhattan Soft as it’s called because of its low murder rate.  Paulette is a home health aide, and she tells Darlene that her patient, Gus Henderson, confessed to killing a man and burying him in a garden plot on Avenue B.  Gus is elderly and has dementia, Paulette warns, and has since retracted his confession, but she feel strongly enough about it to come to the police.  She also knows, she says, the exact location of the body because Gus had pointed it out.

While visiting Gus and getting the same denial about the murder that his aide had gotten, Darlene is shown his box of keepsakes.  In it is a photo of a willow tree in the garden.  So after getting permission to take the photo with her, Darlene gets approval from her supervisor to assembles a team and start digging to uncover what is buried.  “You’ve got six hours,” he warns her, and that would seem to be enough to uncover the body of the large black man that Gus previously had admitted to stabbing to death.  But what is revealed by the city’s forensic anthropologist is very different–the remains of a white child, a young John Doe.

Darlene’s search to find the identity of the boy takes her from her Manhattan home to Sarasota, Florida and then part-way up the eastern seaboard in the company of Connie Warwrinka, a detective on the Sarasota force.  What brings them together is the fact that the NYPD got a ballistics match on the bullet that killed the still-unknown and unclaimed body in Manhattan.  That bullet matched one in Sarasota that had been used to kill an eighty-seven-year-old widower there.  There doesn’t seem to be any logical connection, but stranger things have happened.

There’s a lot going on in Buried on Avenue B and a large cast of characters, but the storyline is clear and the characters are wonderfully drawn.  Darlene, who became an unmarried mother at fifteen, now has a son who has just dropped out of college to lead a rock band.  She had named him Alex Rose, and perhaps that’s what caused the change in his career path.  At the garden, Darlene meets Christina Malmstromer, who tends her small plot of tomatoes, basil, and eggplant, and her father, Lars, who secretly makes miniature furniture in the hope that someday Christina will give him a grandchild.

Investigating the murder of Ben Levin in Florida, Darlene meets his childhood friend Sol Klinger and Ben’s downstairs neighbor, ninety-year-old Sharon Di Nunzio, who had a romantic/sexual relationship with the deceased.  And that list of characters doesn’t even touch some of the most interesting ones in Manhattan.  It’s an amazing group of people, all of whom come across as real people, not simply figures put on the pages of a book.

Buried on Avenue B is a terrific mystery, one that has an ending that took me totally by surprise.  It’s a winner in every sense.

You can read more about Peter De Jonge at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.