JOHN L. FRENCH “Message in the Sand.” PI Matthew Grace. First published in the collection Past Sins: The Matthew Grace Casebook (Padwolf Publishing , paperback, March 2009).

   The collection Past Sins that includes this story contains 17 stories about Matthew Grace, but in how many of them he’s working as a PI, I do not know. In the first few I skimmed through, he’s a crime scene investigator for the Baltimore police department.

   Since that the job that the author also has had for many years, I’m sure the details are right, and that’s the expertise that carries over to the cases that Grace is involved in when he starts his new career as a PI.

   This one begins with the discovery of the arm (only) of a notorious gangster buried in the sand along a stretch of the Maryland shoreline. That has nothing to do with the case that Grace is hired to work on, that of a missing daughter working a summer job in the same area before heading off to college in the fall. Or does it, as you may very well ask.

   It’s by the numbers from this point on, but sometimes the numbers add up to a very good story, and that’s what we have here, one on the grittier side. Grace has the right connections to do the job well, and is more than tough enough when the going gets a little rough. You can’t ask for much more from PI story, can you?