PUBLISHED: 4:02 PM on Tuesday, September 12, 2006
'Lost Angel' keeps reader guessing

Everyone, as they say, deserves a second chance.

People overlook transgressions, large and small. Families can be mended and friends can re-unite when bygones are forgotten. Even the late Ann Landers advocated a Forgiveness Day.

Sometimes, hardened ex-cons get lucky and catch another chance. That's what happens to Nik Kane, and in the new mystery novel "Lost Angel" by Mike Doogan, Nik's second chance at life isn't exactly the one he wants.

Two months and eight days ago, Nik Kane walked out of prison, exonerated for a crime he didn't commit. Nik spent seven years behind bars, and he fought for his life nearly every day. Being an ex-cop in prison is no cakewalk, and Nik has the scar on his face to prove it.

Laurie, Nik's wife, stood by him for the entire time he was in prison, but three weeks after being out, Laurie told Nik it was over. He wasn't the man she married, she said. He'd changed while in prison. Even Nik himself had to admit she was right.

Now, Nik Kane is without a wife and without a job. His old boss at the Department has told him to forget about returning to police work, but Tom Jeffords has an assignment for Nik anyway.

Off the record, of course.

The tiny Christian community of Rejoice would be called a commune by anyone in the lower 48, but in Alaska, Rejoice is just another spot in the road. The Angels, as the residents are known locally, keep to themselves. They raise their own food and don't have much interaction with the folks living nearby in Devil's Toe. But now the Angels need outside help.

Faith Wright, granddaughter of Moses Wright, the charismatic founder of Rejoice, has gone missing. Faith is a beautiful 17-year-old who is quiet and responsible. It would be uncharacteristic for her to have simply left the village of her birth. Nik tries to fact-gather, but Rejoicers know about his past and they don't trust him much.

Then, while he's investigating Faith Wright's disappearance, there's a murder in nearby Devil's Toe. Does Faith's disappearance relate to the killing of the mine-worker? Or could these two remote Alaska cases be cold already?

I've read my share of mystery novels this year; some very good, some not-so-very-good. "Lost Angel" falls in the first category. Author Mike Doogan is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and in this, his first novel, he's created a rough, confused, but tough new PI with an edge.

Nik Kane isn't perfect. He has his faults, the least of which is that he sometimes loses focus. He hates crowds and he hates what life has tossed in his lap. All this makes him one of the most interesting crime solvers I've met in a long time, and I can't wait until the next Nik Kane mystery.

If you're up for great dialogue, well-fleshed characters, and a host of plot-twists, read "Lost Angel." But until you finish it, forget about putting it down because you won't have a chance in the world.