HRBooks review: Cozy mystery close to home

In a piece she wrote for the Daily Press in 2015, Williamsburg author Jane Flagello said she was working on a cozy mystery series.

In her latest,"Complicity," she fulfills that dream — and uses familiar Williamsburg as its setting.

She references the Trellis restaurant, with its chocolate dessert that’s “to die for” and "Greenleaf Industries" recalls a wonderful cafe near William and Mary’s Zable Stadium.

Her accurate vibe on our mysterious Virginia, which seems to be the setting of prime-time select criminal television shows, resounds with an alien, unholy uniting of horrific contemporary issues, such as homeless in America and black market organ trafficking.

Protagonists are Williamsburg Beacon reporters Nadine Steiner-Green and Morgan Kasey, who are frustrated with their unadventurous editor. Nadine has left a Washington Post-like paper to chill in her golden years in a town where the most dangerous things are historical reenactments and outlet malls. Morgan is her former student and current best friend.

"Funny how the passage of time makes age irrelevant," Flagello writes. It’s this type of insight and a spirited pace that make "Complicity" a nice addition to our local literary canon. Mega-nasty criminals keep the story riveting. Flagello immediately nails Elan Health System mastermind Colton Pollard the "devil incarnate." A gentleman named Hayden tries to steal his own daughter’s kidney and extend his life as an international sex trafficker.

Pollard's free clinics pop up in Williamsburg, a ruse to lure the homeless who are doomed to lose organs after hours. Morgan has befriended a military veteran street man named Eli, and when he goes missing, the search brings a clinic in focus.

Detective Adam Knight takes little for granted and becomes the investigation's bulldog. The reporters do their job too well for their own safety, and let's just say Henry Street looks a lot less friendly. Moss worked for Hayden until he saw the truth and rounded up some old special-ops buddies. Pollard comes to Hayden's aid. Does the mission fail?

Victims are gathered high-tech hunter style in the most chilling passages. Scariest of all is that people are losing homes and organs unwillingly in our real-time news, a quandary no police force can clean up overnight.

The sweet conclusion is reminiscent of the final scene in "Gone With The Wind” (had it gone better), but you should read "Complicity" to discover what gets resolved. I hope Flagello keeps things neighborly in future books, as this adds a lot of fun and intrigue for me.

"Complicity" is available at major booksellers. Visit janeflagello.com for more information.

Tim Lee, a former staffer for East Coast pop culture magazine Catharsis, lives in Newport News.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
54°