An Unsettled Grave is the second book in the Santero and Rein crime thriller series by Bernard Schaffer, a full-time police detective and a relatively new author with a very bright future ahead, if I have to judge his writing career based on this book.
I haven’t read the first book in the series, but the author reassured me that each book can be read as a standalone, so I picked it up since it’s in my favorite genre. And boy, I was hooked on the story right from the start.
We meet young detective Carrie Santero, who has a knack for ruffling the feathers of others, which doesn’t really earn her any brownie points. Just like when she comes across the case of a young raped woman who claims that a policeman did it.
It doesn’t take her a long time to ask all policemen in the area for DNA samples to prove they are innocent, something that, understandably, doesn’t sit well with anyone. After all, police should stick together at all costs.
So she is tasked with an easier case that she can’t possibly screw up and is sent to some further-away town to help with a current investigation. It should be something simple and her presence should not cause any troubles around.
Except that things are not quite as simple as they seem, and what she stumbles upon is a thirty-year-old case that has eluded the local cops until now. Not only that but it caused the death of several policemen back in the day, with no actual resolution to any of it.
While she is investigating this old case of a missing little girl, Jacob Rein, a current bum and former detective, keeps nudging her in a particular direction with his clues. It seems that he might have actually known the little girl back then. Else what is his connection to this very old case, and could he just try to lead her toward a wrong scent?
As I haven’t read the previous book, I was not sure about the relationship between the two, so for the longest time, I haven’t actually taken Rein’s pointers seriously, but the title of the series includes his name for a reason.
The story alternates between the present and the past, with several characters remembering what happened back then. I have to admit that at some point I was so enthralled with the old story from 30 years ago that whenever I was thrown back into the present with Carrie, I was almost a bit disappointed. Not because Carrie’s current investigation was not interesting – it was. But the past story told from several different points of view truly sucked me in.
My eBook reader has the book at some 500 pages, so it’s not a short story. Once you start reading, you won’t even notice the time passing. I read it until 2 am to finish it, as I couldn’t put it down.
The characters, especially Rein, are well fleshed out, and you really get glimpses into how police worked in the past and how they’re tackling situations now (it seems not all that different except for the technological upgrades, which is both a good and a bad thing). Rein is that antihero that you simply can’t stop feeling sympathy and even admiration for. He was my favorite character of all the bunch. Well, maybe except for Ollie Rein, Jacob’s uncle. He was an upstanding guy with his heart in the right place going after a foe much tougher than himself.
I liked Carrie as well, although I haven’t gained too much from her flashbacks about her character. I felt that Rein was much better developed, but it could simply be that she took center stage in the first book and this story focused more on Rein. I’ll have to read the first novel to see whether my hunch is right.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed An Unsettled Grave, and I will keep an eye out for the author’s further books in the series. I will want to see whether Rein’s personal problems will be resolved as well.