Dead and Gone
Annalisa Vega Book 3
August 8th, 2023
Dead and Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen brings back popular police detective Annalisa Vega. In this latest installment there are not one but five crimes to solve. Because she is such an excellent author, readers do not get confused at all as to what is happening, and which crime is being focused on in a particular chapter.
“There are five mysteries to solve in the book. First, there is what happened to Sam Tran, the dead PI. Then there are his three open cases: a stalker on a college campus; a cold-case double murder of a couple who was having an affair at a seedy motel; and a missing mom who went to a New Year’s Eve party in 1989 and never came home. On top of this, there is a guy robbing convenience stores dressed in a chicken mask. The basic structure of the book is an homage to a 1997 mystery novel by Carolyn Hart called Death in Lover’s Lane. In that book, a graduate student journalist is trying to decide among three crime cases to report on for her final project when she ends up dead. Her professor thinks that poking around in one of the cases must have led the student to uncover something that got her murdered. But which one? “
The plot has Annalisa Vega being pulled in by her boss, Commander Zimmer, to investigate the death of a former police detective, Sam Tran, who was also Zimmer’s former partner. After retiring from the police force, Tran became a private investigator. Vega decides that the best leads to solve the murder is to investigate his three open case files. Charlotte Osteen has been missing since New Year’s Eve 1989 and her daughter hoped Sam could find out what happened to her and bring closure. Brad Morrison hired Tran to track down the Queen of Hearts killer who bashed Brad’s wife, Kathy, and her lover, Stephen Powell, to death in a motel 22 years ago as they were having an affair. And the third case gets personal for Vega when she finds out that her older brother Vinny asked him to find out who was stalking his daughter Quinn, Annalisa’s niece, while she was attending college. At the same time, her romantic partner, Nick, who is also on the force and acting as her work partner, is working the case of the Chicken Bandit, who’s been holding up local convenience stores and getting more violent with each new robbery.
“Police have a ton of power in our society, and not all of them use it well. That’s a major theme of the Annalisa books. However, this book is more about the rules that exist for good reasons but nevertheless prevent Annalisa from pursuing what she sees as justice. Budget constraints mean cops can’t pursue whatever investigations suit their fancy, especially cold cases where the odds of finding the answer seem slim. Jurisdictional laws mean that sometimes a less-competent cop is running the investigation and there is nothing that the better cop can do about it because they don’t have the authority to take over. Annalisa doesn’t like this either, so she’s constantly skirting the official rules to track down answers and get her man.”
In addition, she must come to grips with the upheaval in her personal life. She may never live down with her family and fellow cops that she took down her own corrupt father, a highly respected police veteran, all while doing her job. She is also trying to figure out how she feels about her partner/lover Nick Carelli, to whom she was once married.
“Annalisa and Nick had a quickie marriage years ago when they were very young. It ended because Nick was cheating, and Annalisa hadn’t really wanted to get married to him in the first place. Now, years later, they are a much better match. Nick has matured and Annalisa has lost her fantasy about what a “perfect” marriage should look like. She had thought that her first love, Colin, was going to marry her. After it fell through and he ghosted her, she grabbed on to Nick. He is the kind of guy who is charming and wanted to fix her emotions. He knew she was looking for love and he decided to be that guy. Because of his unstable upbringing he was also looking for an instant family. They got married for all the wrong reasons. Neither had been honest with each other about their past. Now, they are much more honest with each other and are a better match. It’s harder to manage an honest relationship, but more rewarding too. They are both in law enforcement, so they understand the demands of the job, and Nick backs Annalisa when most of the other cops have abandoned her. Also, they make each other laugh, which goes a long way to explaining their connection. Nick played around on Annalisa so much during their marriage that it’s not inconceivable for him to have fathered a kid somewhere along the way. Cassidy is a minor character in Dead and Gone but she has a much larger role in the next book.”
This story has a feisty detective, family drama, and a lot of suspense and twists. Vega is a compelling character and the author balances well the casework, with her private life.