Ebony Continental: The Sandeen Mysteries, Book One
In 1987, Kristina Bonner was the All-American girl—beautiful, smart, athletic and wealthy. On the night of her senior prom, she disappeared. Almost thirty years later, Sandeen decides to look into the matter, and learns that small towns don't want their secrets known. More
Kristina Bonner had what every girl wanted. She was slim, tall, athletic, auburn-haired, beautiful, and a straight-A student in a well-respected public high school in the year of our Lord, 1987. Her wealthy, connected father doted on her, granting her every wish, and on the night of her senior prom, he handed her the keys to a prized possession, a classic, perfectly preserved, black 1956 Continental Mark II. She drove away in it that night and was never seen again.
Sandeen is a writer of true-crime books, an espresso-shop owner, a gear head, and a sucker for unsolved mysteries. After John Bonner, Kristina's father, had spent almost thirty years exhausting all conventional investigative avenues, he encounters Sandeen and asks him to find his daughter, or failing that, learn her fate. Sandeen agrees, but only because he believes he can get a book out of it, hopefully, a best-seller.
The inquiry takes Sandeen to the small town of Catalpa, Kansas, John Bonner's family home at the time Kristina disappeared. Once he starts asking questions, Sandeen becomes a target for those who still have a lot to lose. Sandeen begins by interviewing members of Kristina's graduating class, and starts to put a frightening picture together when he learns that two other people Kristina's age disappeared at about the same time.
The local sheriff's office becomes an impediment to the investigation, first managing to frustrate him, and then arresting him on trumped-up charges. Sandeen's attorney and former gal-pal, Elaine McClelland, manages to get him out of jail, but then has to defend him against allegations tossed about by Homeland Security agents.
Sandeen learns that Kristina had a step-brother, and manages to find and interview him. He also finds that one of the three young people who'd gone missing simply left town and no one cared. As he gets closer to the solution of the mystery, Sandeen picks up two unexpected allies. Chief of Police Burnside didn't grow up in Catalpa, and he holds no loyalty to those who might be involved in one or more murders. The 'old guy' who refuses to give his name hands Sandeen tantalizing clues, but never quite enough to solve the mystery.
As Sandeen gets very close, a off-duty deputy sheriff attacks him, having first disabled Griffee, the only friend Sandeen has made in his stay in Catalpa. In the fight, Sandeen permanently disfigures the deputy, but Chief Burnside has a trusted witness who points at the deputy as the aggressor.
When all the pieces come together, Sandeen lays the mystery out for Chief Burnside. The final pieces of evidence are in a cemetery in another county and Burnside has no authority there. After some convincing, Burnside agrees to help find those final pieces. As Sandeen and Burnside dig into an all-but-forgotten and mis-labeled grave, they are attacked by the two men who as boys killed Kristina Bonner and one of her friends, and then stole and hid the ebony Continental. In the fracas, Burnside is grievously wounded, Sandeen is disabled, but the two men—one of them Kristina Bonner's half-brother—wind up dead.
At the belated funeral for Kristina Bonner, Sandeen is confronted by the 'old guy' who is content that he solved the mystery, but furious that so many people suffered and died to get to the truth. He calls Sandeen an amateur and then walks away, leaving Sandeen to wonder if it was all worth it.
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