Throwback Thursday this week features a Leo Waterman mystery. This is a series I enjoy very much which began in the mid 1990s. From 2000 there was a big gap until the books started again in 2012. Family Values was published in 2017.
Retired PI Leo Waterman returns to Seattle a day earlier than he expected. It’s Valentine’s Day and he plans to surprise his girlfriend, forensic examiner Dr Rebecca Duvall, with chocolates and flowers. There’s no answer at Rebecca’s house but Leo can hear her phone ringing inside when he tries to contact her. Realising something must be wrong, Rebecca is always on call, he breaks down the door to be hit with an overpowering smell of gas. He finds Rebecca unconscious with a needle dangling from her arm. Desperate, Leo manages to get Rebecca outside before he’s overcome by the fumes.
Rebecca has been suspended from her job and is under investigation. The police suspect it’s a suicide attempt because Rebecca can’t face the outcome of her actions, but Leo doesn’t believe that for a moment. But who not only wants Rebecca fired, but also killed. The events which follow only confirm his previous suspicions that Rebecca, and by association himself, are now being targeted.
She blinked several times. “Me? Suicide?”
I held up a cautionary hand. “You gotta understand,” I said, ‘they’re working from the assumption that you’re guilty of all that shit you’re accused of doing. The way they see it, you couldn’t take the pressure and decided to take the easy way out.” I waited a beat, thinking maybe she’d jump in with a denial. Instead, she looked away again, so I kept talking. “And at this point it’s not gonna do any good to be telling the cops about the UPS guys either. They’re just gonna think you’re trying to cover your ass.” Her eyes told me she knew I was right and didn’t like it even a little bit.
Leo, together with ‘the boys’ – his unconventional back-up surveillance group of ageing homeless misfits, a couple of helpful friends and ably assisted by Gabe’s lethal expertise, uncovers more than he bargained for in his quest to clear Rebecca’s name.
The narrative is written in the first person from Leo’s perspective. Over the course of this very enjoyable series (narrated excellently by Patrick Lawlor) Leo has developed in keeping with the passing of time and I love that he still looks out for his homeless pals. He’s good-hearted, more than slightly cynical and has mostly managed to work his way from under the cloud of his father’s corruption. Once a powerful politician, Waterman senior wasn’t averse to underhand dealings. Leo can be tough when the situation warrants and he gets into some attention grabbing situations, particularly when someone advises him not to do something.
A well crafted, action driven plot filled with tension, suspense, skilful characterisations and snappy dialogue. I was immediately transported to rain drenched Seattle by wonderfully descriptive prose – The rain was charging across the pavement in silver sheets; overhead, the wind roared through the treetops like a bullet train. (Sounds like our summer!) Gabe is an inspired addition, ‘they’ are intriguing and I hope will feature in future books. There are enough twists to keep me guessing and even when one mystery is solved it leads straight into another. A solid series which stands the test of time.
About the Book
Returning to Seattle after a business trip, retired PI Leo Waterman is shocked to find his girlfriend, Rebecca Duvall, unconscious on the bathroom floor, her house filled with gas. Officials believe it was a suicide attempt in the wake of a humiliating scandal. Under investigation for dereliction of duty, she’d been suspended from her job as medical examiner for King County. Leo knows Rebecca too well—and is determined to prove her innocence and clear her name. Most important, he wants to find out who tried to kill her.
Despite the prosecuting attorney’s claims of a solid case, Leo rounds up his ragtag team of miscreants to find the truth. The investigation leads straight to The Highlands. There, behind the locked doors of one of Seattle’s most exclusive gated communities, old money can afford to bury older family secrets. But for Leo, unearthing them is going to trap him in a conspiracy that is deadlier, and far more personal, than he feared.