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Chicago Police Detective Ryan Doherty is coasting. Regarded as the top detective in Chicago’s 18th District – Lincoln Park – he is hard-working and good-looking. His Irish charm and killer smile smooth the way past stony receptionists and suspicious building superintendents.

Since Kelly, his long-time lover, left him
the week after the funeral of his best-friend and partner, Jon Lange, Detective Doherty’s daily routine of work, workout and bars is getting stale. Only a part of his mind recognizes this.

In “Town Red,” the deaths of husband-and-wife power duo Carla and Scott Redding, which occurred within hours of each other but miles apart, offer the smart and charming but risk-taking detective a chance to prove himself with the new police superintendent. He and his new partner and mentee, Matt DiSanto, must prove the deaths are homicides.

Few of the employees of Town Red Media, the Reddings’ company, mourn the deaths of their bosses. On a wall of one of the offices, a photograph of the Reddings and their first employee intrigues Detective Doherty.

Curiosity and the possibility that this ethereally beautiful woman, former vice president at Town Red, is a suspect in one or more of the murders lead the detectives to a mystically beautiful house in Evanston. Fourth-generation Evanstonian Catharine Lulling built the mansion on the site of her great-grandfather’s home, using part of the $30 million in stocks she received when she left the company.

The home has a full garden, complete with trees, in the atrium; a music room with a long mirrored wall and barre where Catharine, once a dancer, still enjoys her practice; a soundproof entertainment room where her twin sons, Hank and Dante (“Duke”) – both freshmen at Northwestern University and members of the football team – can enjoy sports and movies as loud as they wish; and Catharine’s circular white bedroom, with a domed top so she can sleep under the stars.

Detective Ryan Doherty is entranced by this woman, who seems at once straightforward and other-worldly. An agoraphobic, she does not leave her house but “works” with clients as what she calls a “finder” but others might deem a “psychic empath.” She is sensitive to auras, energy and other non-verbal and invisible information about a person. Sometimes she sees a vision; at other times, an impression – or a place, a name or a word – materializes in her thoughts. She is either the detective’s soul-mate or the perfect killer.

“Town Red” is the first in what will become a series by Jennifer Moss, who grew up and attended schools in Evanston. Readers will enjoy picking up on Chicago and Evanston references – Bennison’s Bakery, Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop, Northwestern University, the Art Institute of Chicago, the flower shop on Sherman Avenue (Saville) and the Luxembourgian ancestry of Catharine Lulling.

“Way to Go,” Ms. Moss’s second Ryan Doherty novel, brings back Ms. Lulling, Detective DiSanto, Assistant State’s Attorney Jane Steffen and a few others from the law and order community.

Ms. Moss creates an intriguing plot when motivational speaker Jessica Way shows up in the 18th district squad room to report death threats against her. She brings in handwritten notes that appear to be in her own handwriting.

The next day, she turns up dead in her hotel room. As the two detectives investigate the murder, the victim’s 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, goes missing. There are suspects from the Way to Go seminars and from the Ways’ private life, since the two have an open marriage.

From “Town Red” to “Way to Go,” the characters have matured and fleshed out. Ryan Doherty has become more likeable and less of a stereotypical playboy. The many twists in the investigation keep the reader engaged. Readers will look forward to the next in Jennifer Moss’s series of “metaphysical mysteries.”