By Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer, 2013 ($14.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
After the long slog from London to San Francisco, most of the passengers on the 747 are jet-lagged zombies, just longing for a place to collapse. Not so Terry Sheffield, who is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to start a new chapter in his life. He left behind his job, his friends and family in England to arrive at his own Plymouth Rock: a new country, a new home, a new career, and best of all, his new wife, Sarah. His joy starts to fade when Sarah is not there to greet him. Hours go by as his phone calls and pages go unanswered and his mood alternates between annoyance, anger, and fear. Finally accepting that Sarah is a no show, either by accident or design, he takes a shuttle to the small town of Edenville, only to find their new home empty, dark, and firmly locked. Pretty lousy start to his bright new life!
Could things get worse? Yes, they could. His forced entry into the house attracts the attention of the neighborhood Nosey Parker, and his next stop is the Edenville lockup. The sheriff finally buys his story, but does not share Terry's anxiety about his missing wife. After hearing about the couple's meeting on an adventure vacation in Costa Rica, their brief courtship, and their Las Vegas wedding, he questions just how well Terry really knows Sarah. Terry is incensed, but as time goes by and the mystery deepens, he begins to wonder the same thing.
His new boss at Genavax, an up and coming biomedical company, is less than sympathetic with his need to look for Sarah, and is not forthcoming about her own relationship with his wife. When a co-worker spills the beans about that, he is quickly warned off and refuses to say more. Sarah is a journalist, and Terry realizes her disappearance probably has to do with something she's been investigating, something dangerous. The editor Sarah usually works with, writing puff pieces and human interest stories, can shed no light on other stories, but offers encouragement and support.
Terry needs all the support and encouragement he can get as he pulls out all the stops to find his wife. After a long day driving the roads around Edenville, searching for her car or an accident scene, he stops into a minigolf and games room for a soda and meets the owner, a cheerful man named Oscar Mayer. When Simon, not well-versed in American TV commercials, doesn't react to the name, Oscar takes a liking to him, sits down with him and lends a sympathetic ear. He takes him under his wing and into his heart, representing the best of American hospitality. The sheriff, on the other hand, while claiming to be doing his best to find Sarah, blows hot and cold. At least until the first body shows up.
Events escalate, tensions grow, and it becomes obvious that Sarah is on to something that certain parties will go to any lengths to prevent her from revealing. As Terry gets closer to figuring out the truth, he becomes a target as well. Terry is a stranger in a strange land, not knowing who he can trust, and it takes all his skills and resources to navigate through the maze that is now his life.
Simon Wood, an Agatha Award winner, is the author of several fine mysteries, including PAYING THE PIPER, WORKING STIFFS, and WE ALL FALL DOWN. He is a master at putting an average person into extraordinary circumstances, revealing the resiliency of the ordinary guy, or gal, and the power of the human spirit. NO SHOW is a one of his best.
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