The Missing Piece by Kevin Egan is a legal thriller set in NYC about a piece of treasure that goes missing during a trial and the search for where it went (available April 14, 2015).
Viewers of the original Law and Order television series will be familiar with the wide staircase and ornate columns of the New York County Courthouse, known to those who work in and about the legal system as 60 Centre.
Author Kevin Egan has an extraordinary familiarity with 60 Centre Street and manages to make the courthouse a unique character in his newest legal thriller, The Missing Piece.
On what starts out as a routine Monday morning, my favorite Court Officer from the pages of Egan’s recent book, Midnight, is called into Captain Kearney’s office. Foxx is being reassigned to Judge Johnstone’s court, much to the annoyance of his friend and fellow officer Gary Martin who generally worked in that courtroom. Why put Foxx in that part and pull Gary out and assign him to guard a rear building entrance? Gary was clearly annoyed and Foxx insisted it didn’t make sense.
Foxx looked at his watch. Eight forty-ﬁve. The usual time that he and Gary and McQueen met to drink coffee …at the start of another day. Ask him. He would do just that.
“And what’s going on in Johnstone’s part?”
“A big trial to determine ownership of an ancient Roman silver treasure,” said Kearney. “It should dovetail nicely with your classical sensibilities.”
The Roman treasure in dispute is known as The Salvus Treasure, a fabulous collection of fourteen pieces of ancient Roman silver, worth tens of millions of dollars. Both Croatia and Hungary claim the treasure belongs to their governments and are fighting against an Englishman who has been buying up pieces of the treasure under the aegis of a consortium of investors. The legal battle over the provenance begins to play out in Judge Johnstone’s courtroom with teams of lawyers in expensive suits disputing ownership and challenging witnesses. All at once the unthinkable happens. Thieves disrupt the trial…and a silver urn, worth millions on its own, is stolen. Gary Martin is critically injured during the robbery and the urn is never seen again.
Wheelchair bound as a result of his injuries, Gary Martin becomes obsessed with finding the one stolen piece that renders the treasure incomplete. He spends his time in exhaustive research until he finally believes he understands why the stolen piece has never come to light. He explains his conclusion to his friend and fellow officer, Mike McQueen:
“The heist of the urn from a New York City courtroom was the worst thing that could have happened to the Salvus Treasure. In bodily terms, it lopped off a limb. The treasure was greater than the sum of its parts and, conversely, the loss of one of those parts has had a disproportionate effect on the value of what remains. The thugs who stole the urn know this. They can sell it to someone, who might sell it to someone else, who in turn might sell it to someone else again. But they would only be making pennies on the dollar, so to speak. The true payoff can only come from one sale, which will be to the party who prevails at the retrial. If there is a retrial.”
“Okay, so?” said McQueen.
“So this expert says what I’ve been thinking for a long time,” said Gary. “The piece is impossible to fence and it will command the greatest price once the new trial is held and declares who owns the treasure.”
Convinced that the urn has never left the building, Gary persuades McQueen to become his legs and search areas Gary has identified within 60 Centre.
All the painful tragedy of the first trial come into a clear focus when a new trial date is set and Judge Johnstone’s former clerk, Linda Conover, now a judge herself, is assigned as trial judge. Gary presses McQueen to step up the search and amidst all the legal wrangling, the hunt is on.
The Missing Piece is an enthralling story. There are so many layers of suspense, reading it is like watching a hustler deal out Three Card Monte. I know what I saw. At least I think I do. And then the story moves off in a different direction and I am filled with questions that must be answered. Egan answers them beautifully with mesmerizing prose, but in the meantime, he is a master of misdirection. It is impossible to tell the good guys from the bad until the final, excruciating scenes.
I loved this book. The tension of the storyline kept me reading faster and faster because I had to know the answers. But Egan kept me guessing and I am sure you will be just as mystified and enjoy The Missing Piece as much as I did.
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Recently nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, Well Read, Then Dead, first in Terrie Farley Moran’s beachside Read ’Em and Eat cozy series will soon be followed by Caught Read-Handed to be released by Berkley Prime Crime in July 2015. Her website is www.terriefarleymoran.com.