The End Game
Gerrie Ferris Finger
St. Martin's Minotaur
by Robin Agnew
Every so often the St. Martin ’s Malice Domestic
winner hits one out of the park – case in point: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming. The
End Game is almost as good, and that’s saying a lot. Like Spencer-Fleming’s book, it’s
hardly a cozy, though it gives a nod to the traditional mystery through the use of an actual locked room murder and some tricky
stuff involving train whistles. Dorothy L. Sayers would be proud. But then she wasn’t
really a cozy writer, either.
isn’t cozy, it’s fairly hard boiled, and so is the topic she’s chosen to write about: missing children.
Her spare prose and unsentimental writing style get you through some of the hard stuff in the story. Her
main character, Moriah Dru, runs an agency called Child Trace, Inc. She’s retired from the police
force and often works with her ex-partner, Rick Lake , as she does in this book. Lake is also Dru’s
lover, but none of that complicates the story too much. Like a runaway freight train, this novel is all
about narrative drive.
I think it’s pretty difficult
to actually make all the details of a straight through investigation seem interesting. Of course it’s
done on television all the time, but you feel on TV that things are left out or compressed. Nothing seems
left out here, and still it’s pretty hard to stop turning the pages. The story opens with a terrible
fire in a tiny Atlanta neighborhood called Cabbagetown. The bodies of the owners have been found inside;
their young foster daughters have vanished, and that’s the focus of the story.
Skillfully setting up and investigating different suspects without seeming to do so is a tricky business, and Finger
totally carries it off. The investigation seems like an explication of the neighborhood – the relationships
and resentments of those who have lived in it for a long time – but really the author is taking you by the hand and
letting you think over each resident as a possible suspect. She assumes intelligence on the part of the
reader, something I always appreciate.
Nothing drives a narrative
like missing kids, and I appreciated that they weren’t exploited by the author for their narrative possibilities. She’s
not making you grab for the Kleenex. The girls are almost more like McGuffins that Dru and Lake are looking
for; you hope they’ll be found – they’re children – but the hunt is as important as the finding.
Some of the stuff Dru finds out in the course of her investigation about why children are taken is pretty stomach churning,
but the author doesn’t dwell on it. Dru needs to move forward, and so does the story.
Finger hints at a backstory for Dru and Lake and while they are fully dimensional
characters, their relationship will probably need focus in future books, as I’m sure this is the first of many.
The depth she brings to the story telling is unusually accomplished; it stays with you when you’re finished,
it’s not just a thriller read for the thrill. The Atlanta setting is used well also, something that
bodes well for future installments. All I can say is, welcome to the mystery community, Ms. Finger.
It feels like you’ve moved right in.
Robin Agnew is a member of the Independent Mytery Booksellers Association.
Aunt Agatha's Mysteries and Crime Fiction
WINNER OF ST. MARTIN'S MINOTAUR/MALICE
DOMESTIC BEST FIRST MYSTERY NOVEL, THE END GAME, FEATURES MORIAH DRU, STRONG HEROINE IN A VIVID SOUTHERN
Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake,
is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after
their foster parents’ house burns down.
An ex-cop, Dru established Child Trace, Inc., after leaving the
force. Judge Devon sees to it that Lake is assigned to head the police investigation, because Dru and Lake together have a
habit of solving cases.
After questioning the neighbors, the couple realize the abduction of the girls
is more than an ordinary kidnapping. Dru learns that in the past eight years two other foster children from the area
have gone missing. The investigation turns up a snitch who tells Dru he’s heard that a secret sex organization, with
members named after chess pieces, is bound for Costa Rica with two girls. The chase is on to stop the kidnappers before they
escape the country.
PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY REVIEW
THE END GAME
Gerrie Ferris Finger
A hunt for two young sisters propels Finger's compelling
if at times sobering debut, which won the 2009 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. When Jessie
and Dottie Rose vanish after their foster parents, Ed and Wanda Barnes, die in a fire that destroys their home in Atlanta's
Cabbagetown neighborhood, Portia Devon, a juvenile judge, turns for help to Moriah Dru, a former cop who runs Child Trace,
Dru and her detective boyfriend,
Lt. Richard Lake, who's officially assigned to the case, conclude that Wanda and a neighbor friend of hers, Millicent
Goddard, may have known the predator who took the Rose sisters - and other girls in the area over the years. Millicent's
murder and a tip that a chld prostitution ring is involved raise the stakes.
A well-research plot and snappy dialogue - plus some fine rail-yard
K-9 detecting by Buddy, a German shepherd, and Jed, a Labrador retriever - keep the action moving. (May)
THE END GAME
Gerrie Ferris Finger
St. Martin's Minotaur
Reviewed by Robin Agnew
Every so often the St. Martin's Malice Domestic winner
hits one out of the park - case in point: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julie Spencer-Fleming. The End Game is almost as good,
and that's saying a lot. Like Spencer-Fleming's book, it's hardly a cozy thought it gives a nod to the traditional
mystery through the use of an actual locked room murder and some tricky stuff involving train whistles. Dorothy L. Sayers
would be proud. But then she wasn't a cozy writer, either.
Miss Goddard said in a monotone suggesting evil, “There have been children missing from this community before
Portia about shot out of her chair. “Who,
Miss Goddard wasn’t prepared for
a rapid exchange. Her breathing labored before she said, “A 10-year-old girl … about eight years ago …
up and vanished. Bonnie Yates lived with a foster couple on Ruby Street. Name was Bolton–Andrew and Stella. They were
from Valdosta. They did their best for the wild little thing. When the police and the CPS got through with them, they went
back home to Valdosta full of anger, and who can blame them. They were good people.”
“Eight years ago, huh?” Portia said, obviously trying to remember
the case. She shook her head. I’d been a cop then. I searched my mind for the case but couldn’t remember it.
Miss Goddard spoke again. “Then, there was another case three-and-a-half
years ago. Sherri Patterson was eleven years old. I guess today’s youngsters mature earlier than they did when I was
coming up. She was a pretty girl but she had a smart mouth like her mama. Mrs. Patterson was divorced and not always at home
when she should be.” Her expression of disapproval said more than words, and even though I felt the press of time, I
let Miss Goddard go on at her measured pace. “Sherri ran with an older crowd, and when she went missing the police decided
she was a runaway. I don’t credit it at all, but we in the neighborhood had to tell what we knew about the family.”
“Which was what?” Portia asked.
“They were tenants of Stephen’s.” Miss Goddard
let a beat of time pass as if to hint at something we should grasp. “After Sherri disappeared, Mrs. Patterson moved
to Florida with … a friend.”
“She had so many.”