Paul Behrens had found his calling teaching literature to middle school students. He loved being a teacher. Married with a son and daughter, he was in good health and they lived in a nice home. So why did he leave one morning and not come back?
Did life get be too much to handle? Is he running from something or to someone? Eddie Maher and his team tackle the mystery of Paul’s disappearance in Frederick Weisel’s novel, The Day He Left.
Maher heads the VCI (Violent Crime Investigations) team in the Santa Rosa Police Department. The members of the team are Daniel Rivas, close to retirement he is the memory for the team; Steve Frames is a former Marine with weapons training; Eden Somers was an FBI analyst good at research with an uncanny ability to find the obscure links in an investigation; and Martin Coyle is the computer guy.
The team handles all manner of crime and never has a shortage of cases so when Annie Behrens walks in to report her husband missing it wouldn’t seem to be a priority – he is an adult male gone less than 24 hours. But he left without his phone and briefcase. Also his son saw him that morning early, dressed up instead of wearing his usual polo and khakis, and Paul was crying. Did Paul leave with the intention of never coming back?
Mahler wants to give it 24 hours and the team begins to dismantle Paul’s life. What they find is more questions than answers. Paul’s marriage was far from ideal. He and Annie had grown apart. She is drinking heavily and involved with a doctor at the hospital where she works evenings. His son is dealing drugs at the high school and Claire, his daughter, is being bullied.
In the briefcase he left behind is a friendship bracelet in a sealed bag. What if any significance does it have to the case? On his laptop is a letter of resignation and searches for Child Protective Services, sexual assault and molestation. He withdrew $1200.00 from the bank the night before he left. Plus who is the man caught on video breaking into his classroom the morning of his disappearance?
When they find Paul’s dead body the team’s focus turns from a missing person to homicide. To find the killer they must discover Paul’s motive for leaving – was he a victim or a predator?
As Mahler leads the search he has Frames only part time as he is on loan to Narcotics for a sting operation and Eden has been called into the FBI office about the case of the Highway 60 serial killer. Eden researched the case for years and it led to her resignation from the FBI so she wants no part of the case. The suspect has been arrested again but he may be set free and he has Eden’s name and address.
Weisel has penned an excellent police procedural but it is also a character study. Each team member is a person with thoughts, feelings, and flaws. These are not the typical hard-nosed sceptics depicted in a lot of crime novels. Eddie and the team know that those they deal with have varying motivations and experiences that influence actions and the information they provide.
This is the second book of the Violent Crime Investigations Team mysteries. The first, Silenced Women, came out last year but you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy this one. However, if you do read Silenced Women first you’ll see how the characters are evolving.
This is not the perfect crime novel but it is an interesting cast of characters. You can be entertained reading about the process of finding whodunit along with a detective’s reflections on people and life.