Sleuthing Connecticut realtor Ben Abbott (Stonedust, 1995, etc.) swings into action when Newbury’s greediest developer is killed by a bulldozer.
For the cops, the murder investigation couldn’t be more open and shut. When you find a corpse under a piece of heavy construction equipment, you arrest the man in the driver’s seat, in this case tree-hugging activist Jeffrey Kimball, who, as a bonus, had every reason to hate Billy Tiller. Jeffrey’s father, a hip-hop entrepreneur, has never been close to his son, but he doesn’t want to see him spend the rest of his life in prison, a fate Jeff, driven by a messianic complex, seems at least intermittently to embrace. So he hires hotshot attorney Ira Levy, who hires Ben to sow the seeds of reasonable doubt. It ought to be an easy job, since Billy was cordially disliked by an improbably large number of suspects who admit they could drive a bulldozer. But Ben isn’t content with the strategy Bruce Kimball has mandated. Increasingly convinced the boy is innocent, he wants to find the actual killer, and he doesn’t care how many influential citizens, from a cuckolded husband to a corrupt judge to the client’s father, he has to confront before he shakes loose a lead.
The plotting is plodding, and despite his tasty title, Scott brings no new urgency to the clash of environmentalists and developers. But he does give you a real sense of the ambivalent individuals behind the issues.
Scott's satisfying fourth installment of his Ben Abbott series (after 2003's Frostline ) hinges on the murder of Billy Tiller, a greedy developer determined to ruin the smalltown charm of Newbury, Conn., with a string of tacky starter palaces. When he's found dead—run over by a bulldozer—the police arrest a young environmental activist, Jeff Kimball. Ira Levy, Kimball's lawyer, asks Abbott, realtor-cum-PI, to dig around. Abbott doesn't want to take the case—he despised everything Tiller stood for and worries that his loathing might hamper his investigation—but Levy twists his arm. Abbott determines pretty speedily that Kimball couldn't have committed the crime, but figuring out who did is a tad trickier. Though the reader never gets to know Abbott very well, this novel will resonate with those in the countless communities that are beset by real estate monstrosities.
“What a civilized pleasure awaits readers inside the handsomely designed doors of Justin Scott's McMansion. In today's world of too many mysteries too closely-spaced, over-sized and under-crafted, Scott's new Ben Abbott novel is designed like a fine house with the rare traditional delights of appealing characters, authentic setting, witty social comedy, and a really good suspenseful plot. So pull up a comfortable chair by the classic fire and enjoy your stay in McMansion.”
- Michael Malone, Author of Uncivil Seasons