FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast doesn’t often take on private cases, but he makes an exception for a man whose pricey wine collection has been stolen from his home in a small seaside Massachusetts town. Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, soon figure out that the wine theft was merely a cover-up for an entirely different crime: a skeleton, concealed for more than a century behind the basement walls of the old house, has been stolen. Soon there is a murder, followed by another, and everything seems connected not only to the disappearance of a sailing vessel in the late 1800s but also to survivors of the Salem witch hunts. The Pendergast novels combine elegant prose with sharp-witted storytelling, and the FBI agent continues to be one of thrillerdom’s more engaging characters. A worthy entry in the long-running series.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, December 2015.