Cohen’s novels were characterized by intricate and intertwining multiple plots, and he had a remarkable ability to weave various complicated threads together despite prose that was often described as turgid or, charitably, plain. He wasn’t writing to the literati, of course–does anyone outside their number even aspire to anymore?–but rather for the lucrative disposable-book trade. People who needed something to read on the train, on the plane, or any of those other bottlenecks where the frenetic pace of modern life was unavoidably slowed would purchase a Maxwell Q. Cohen book and discard it like a candy wrapper after reading.

Most of the finer thrift stores overflowed with volumes stocked alongside Crichton, Koontz, and King. His were human stories, though, without a hint of the supernatural or the technological and crafted for those who were not of either bent. It was a formula for consistent success, if not renown, and most of the titles wound up selling very well. His latest, “Forest of Bloodshot Eyes,” had even debuted on the bestseller list and there was scuttlebutt of a Hollywood adaptation with the latest pretty-thing-of-the-month shoehorned into a role written for someone 20 years older and 20 IQ points smarter.

That’s why Cohen’s unannounced disappearance from his lakeside home had been such a bitter shock.