The ninth novel in Ridley Pearson's series featuring Seattle police detective Lou Boldt cleverly combines a high-tech crime with one of the oldest plot twists in the mystery genre: the stolen object hidden in plain sight device first used in Poe's "The Purloined Letter." In fact, the title of the novel, The Body of David Hayes, is itself something of an exercise in misdirection.

David Hayes once worked as a computer specialist at the bank where Lou Boldt's wife, Liz, now directs technical operations. A digital whiz kid, Hayes managed to embezzle $17 million that no one could trace, though investigators suspected it had been stashed in an offshore account. Convicted of wire fraud and sent to prison for four years, Hayes is paroled just as the bank is about to conclude a profitable merger. When the two institutions' records are merged, the $17 million transaction that he has apparently hidden somewhere in the bank's computers will disappear.

Liz Boldt is not only one of the few people with access to the bank's highest-security computers, she was also having an extramarital affair with Hayes at the time of the embezzlement. Oh, and a videotape of her having sex with Hayes has surfaced and is quickly circulating. The Boldts' marriage is threatened by her affair, and both of the Boldts are in danger of, at best, losing their jobs and, at worst, being implicated in an ever-lengthening list of criminal offenses. Ultimately, Liz must make an anguished choice between what is best for her family and what is best for the bank.

Pearson shows his usual mastery of the intricacies of structure and the subtleties of suspenseful pacing. He is clearly fascinated by the kinds of ironies that keep character and situation connected even as events accelerate and the characters' understanding of those events seems always a day late and a dollar short. The situation he presents is pretty close to absolute misery for the Boldts, but this gripping thriller is a terrific diversion for Pearson's readers. Martin Kich is a professor of English at Wright State University.

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