When Matt Ryan took the Raintree case, it seemed routine. He changed his mind when people he questioned were found dead later, with the word "hangman" written in their blood. Then the killer came after Matt. In this film noir flavored novel, a world weary detective races against time to solve a dark and bloody twenty year old mystery before he becomes one of the dead.
Matt Ryan dislikes missing persons cases because they usually turn out badly for the client. Still, he needs money, so when Rebecca Raintree offers Matt twice his usual fee to find her son David, he reluctantly agrees.
Before long, Matt is plunged into a dark tangle involving a twenty year old horror that has slithered back to life. People he questions are found murdered later with the word "hangman" written out in their blood, while someone starts stalking Matt and trying to kill him. Russian gangsters and the Mounties are after him too.
If that isn't enough, Matt finds himself torn between the advances of beautiful party girl Laura and his affair with his lovely secretary Samantha.
By the time he finds David Raintree, Matt is in so deep that he'll be lucky to get out alive.
Something about the Raintree house made me think of Edgar Allan Poe. The building's dark mansards and gables had that brooding nineteenth century look that would've fit right into "The Fall Of The House Of Usher". It didn't help any that I saw the place outlined against a slate colored sky.
As I parked my midnight blue Toyota on the interlocking brick driveway, I felt uneasy in my gut. Maybe it was because I was in Rosedale, the kind of rich Toronto neighborhood where peasants like me get arrested for loitering. Maybe it was because I was still having bad dreams about my last case. Whatever the reason, I told myself to get a grip. This was just another job.
I turned up my tweed overcoat's collar against the wind, locked the Toyota and walked up to the front door. It was three o'clock on a November afternoon and the air was less frosty than that morning. Snow was probably on the way. I pushed the gold colored doorbell button and waited while gusts of wind made withered leaves skitter and dance across the huge front lawn.
The door was opened by a slim gray haired woman wearing a navy blue blazer over her white blouse and banker's gray skirt. If forced to guess, I would have placed her somewhere in her early seventies. Her posture and expression signalled that she was accustomed to being treated with deference.
"Yes?" she asked.
"That's who I am. Who are you?"
I held out one of my business cards and Rebecca Raintree shoved it into a pocket of her jacket without looking at it.
"You're punctual, Mr. Ryan. I like that. Please come in."
We walked down a blue carpeted hallway, then turned left into a large room filled with overstuffed floral pattern furniture. Tiffany lamps sat on a couple of oak end tables, while old black and white photographs stood in a row on the dark marble mantle above the hearth. Two oil paintings of hunting scenes hung on one wall. In one corner, a pendulum clock ticked. Time had stopped here more than fifty years ago.