With “A Place in the Wind,” Suzanne Chazin writes a mystery that is disturbingly timely as well as engrossing and fascinating because of the crime(s), the characters, and the plot. Although this book is the fourth in the series about Detective Jimmy Vega, reading this one without having read the previous novels did not leave this reader wondering much. In fact, as a stand-alone novel, it works amazingly well. The reader will not feel a need to read the previous novels, only, perhaps, a desire to learn more of the backstory on the main characters and a desire to read the other mysteries that Jimmy Vega has solved.
Chazin’s main character, Jimmy Vega, is a detective of Puerto Rican descent. His girlfriend is Adele Figueroa, a Harvard law school graduate who works with immigrants at the local center. Both Figueroa and Vega are divorced and have a child from a first marriage.
In this story, one of the immigrant center’s volunteers, Catherine Archer, disappears after an evening helping teach English to several of the many immigrants who work and live in the small New York town of Lake Holly. She is found dead, and suspicion focuses on one of the immigrants, a man previously convicted of assault and rape, with whom Catherine had been working.
The third person narrative works well to share the thoughts of many of the characters. Adele is concerned with those she has been passionate about helping — the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the underdogs. In fact, she gave up a lucrative law practice to found and run La Casa, the center for those in need. Vega is a detective who was placed on desk duty after shooting an unarmed man. (This story is told in “No Witness but the Moon,” a previous novel.)
This novel is not a one-dimensional mystery with only one question. There are many multi-faceted characters, including Jimmy Vega and even, ultimately, the murderer. Chazin makes the town of Holly Lake a microcosm of the United States, a place where immigrants are a valued part of society — until they aren’t. After the murder, there are those who seek to divide the town by feeding the flames of hatred and suspicion. And those who want to calm the fires are reviled and treated with hostility and rage.
Some of the characters are disturbingly similar to national political figures, but this technique serves to make the story more real and immediate and to evoke visceral feelings from the reader. Vega is a county cop, and watching him toe the line between investigating the murder, other issues that arise, and a fear for his daughter keeps the pages turning.
This is a perfect choice for any mystery-lover looking for a new series.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Kensington Books, for review purposes.