Elderly and children targeted in ‘Buried’

Peter De Jonge, author of “Buried on Avenue B.”

BURIED ON AVENUE B. By Peter De Jonge. Harper. 336 pages. $25.99.

An elaborate con game that mercilessly targets the elderly and children plays out from New York to Sarasota during the cleverly plotted “Buried on Avenue B.”

In his second novel about New York homicide detective Darlene O’Hara, Peter De Jonge delivers a suspenseful police procedural that astutely incorporates unrepentant grifters, seedy areas and a road trip helmed by two smart female cops.

Gus Henderson’s life as a petty criminal and junkie stopped years ago because senility, not personal reform, reared its head. Now he’s just a sad old man suffering from Alzheimer’s, relying on his Jamaican caregiver. Darlene can’t tell if Gus’ recent confession to killing his former partner and burying him in an East Village community garden off Avenue B 17 years ago is reality or a confused man’s rantings.

Darlene persuades her boss to dig up the garden with the promise that the squad will have another solved crime to its credit. Instead, they have a new case to solve when they find the body of a child recently buried with an unusual assortment of items.

The case involves Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Coney Island, where families live off the grid, even in the heart of New York. A ballistics report takes Darlene to Sarasota, where she finds an ally in police detective Connie Wawrinka, who is openly gay. The two women follow the trail through Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where their investigation leads to a group of amoral criminals.

De Jonge briskly moves “Buried on Avenue B” to a satisfyingly realistic finale. The strong friendship that forms between the two detectives enhances the plot, as does the chilling depiction of scams aimed at the elderly.

De Jonge, a former reporter for The Associated Press and New York magazine, began his career as a novelist as one of James Patterson’s co-authors. As a solo author, De Jonge proves his affinity for gripping stories.

Reviewer Oline H. Cogdill, a writer for the Sun Sentinel