Monday, February 28, 2005

The Resurrection of Daniel Mason by Patricia McFall

“The Resurrection of Daniel Mason” by Patricia McFall, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2005

This story continues the adventures of Ms. McFall’s series PI, Lane Terry, former actress and performance artist. In this story the younger brother of Lane’s first boyfriend approaches her unexpectedly. It seems that the former boyfriend, the titular Daniel, fell onto evil times and died of a drug overdose. He had willed his body to the medical school. When they were done with it, they cremated the remains and sent them to the family. Sean, the younger brother, wants Lane to help him and his parents dispose of the ashes at sea. In the course of doing that, she finds a tag amongst the ashes that identifies them as anatomical waste with a date a month prior to the death of Daniel.

That starts an investigation into what really happened to Daniel’s body. This brings Lane into contact with a ghoulish morgue supervisor, Nick, at the medical school who is obviously, at least to her, dishonest. She knows he’s got some kind of scam going on, but she’s not sure exactly what it is. She infiltrates the morgue as a temporary worker. Nick’s boss, Dr. Cannon, almost immediately discovers her as a fraud, but keeps her on the job. If Nick is doing something wrong, she wants to know.

Lane eventually finds Daniel’s body still residing in the cold room of the morgue. She also discovers the scam Nick is running, a really profitable scam analogous to an automotive chop shop. Lane is due for one more surprise before being almost killed. Fortunately Ms. McFall allows Lane to escape death through her own skills and actions rather than having her rescued at the last moment.

This is a long story, very dense and well plotted. One step leads to a discovery, which leads to another step, another discovery, and so on. Just the way a good PI story should. I liked the human side of Lane that Ms. McFall showed through Lane’s gradually increasing attraction to Sean. It certainly made her more real.

In short, a well-done story with a likable protagonist.