Tag Archives: mysteries

Review: The Appeal (Janice Hallett)

A very real warning up front: if you do not care for epistolary novels (stories told primarily in the form of letters, emails, and other documents), you will absolutely not like this book.

On the other hand, if you’re a fan of, or at least welcome to, the epistolary novel, as I am, and have the patience to keep track of all the characters and the details of the story itself, you will be well rewarded by an outstanding debut novel that is almost perfect and told entirely in documents alone.

The setting is a small town in England, and the story begins with a legal team introducing documents, so we know we are are actually closer to the end of the story than the beginning. We then dive into the tale from the beginning (documents-wise), where a small theater troupe is about to cast and present a play. One of the members, however, has gone MIA, and several people are emailing wondering what’s happening.

The truth is sad: his granddaughter has been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. There is a very new and experimental treatment the family wants to try, but it’s very expensive. There is some fundraising, but also people skeptical of this treatment. Eventually, someone winds up dead, and that’s when the book ramps up.

I won’t go further into details about the plot from there, as it’s much too easy to get into spoilers. I will name the one quibble I have with the book: someone presenting documents of a case is expected to weed out the things that are not particularly relevant to the incident under investigation, and there are a few too many of those still left in that don’t add anything to the story.

Beyond that, it’s a twisting, surprising case, and well worth a read.

A solid four out of five stars.

Expected publication date: January 25, 2022

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Fresh Grave in Grand Canyon (Lee Patton)

Very nearly DNF this. SPOILERS

My initial reaction: this book made me a little angry. Category-wise, it was billed as a mystery. The summary makes it seem a mystery. Do not be fooled. It is not. Well, most of it is not. And the people…

Ray O’Brien volunteers to go on a rafting research trip with his pal Jenny Bridger, who is leading a science-gathering, after she winds up a man (person) down. It’s a trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. His role? Not much: just help out. His stepfather was some kind of psycho, so of course his academic life is consumed by studying the neuro effects of that. He meets Duke first, who is skinny dipping in the same water hole he just got out of. Of course there’s an instant attraction. Two tropes: violent, abusive past, and instalust if not instalove.

The larger group: Jenny, the team leader, who of course is apprehensive about her first team lead job, feeling guilty about missing her daughter Amelia’s graduation, because the trip has to start the same day. Trope: working mother has to choose between job and family. Other trope: she’s divorced.

Carol Carne, longtime activist volunteer and pediatric nurse, and her husband Jack, fat, rude insurance salesman, and of no value to the trip, really. Trope: alcoholic, bigoted, horndog husband ogling a teenaged girl; saint of a wife who abides him.

Duke, Park Ranger, who served in the military as a peacekeeper in the Balkans and lost his left arm there. Trope: Tough guy with a sensitive heart of gold. And also PTSD.

Annette & Tess, two female students,also volunteers. Trope: Sexy Tess draw’s Jack’s eye.

There are a few bigoted RVers next to the crew as they get feed and do final prep for rafting. Of course they are crude, and Jack joins in with them. One of them calls Tess a n******, and Duke a “crip”, furter suggests there are quotas being met. Trope: the bigotry of the world one might think to escape on a rafting trip, but alas, rude,crude, bigoted Jack is along for the ride.

Glen, the river guide, who is given over to pontificating about how people are destroying the planet. Carol does this as well, but it seems Glen is the one carrying the trope of ecoterrorist onto the river.

Tycho, an oarsman, brought by Glen. Trope: the cute boy the girls moon over. Also given to ecorants, because he lives with Glen.

Hannah Pinch, camp cook and Jenny’s soon-to-be ex-mother in law, with whom she has a better relationship than she does with Faith’s son. Trope: yeah, that.

Faith Brittle, director of a Montana college’s Women’s Studies Program, oarswoman and guide. Trope: Militant feminism and demonization of men.

Take all the tropes, put them on boats, and send them down a river. Have Trope Bigoted Jerk get tossed out of his raft on the first rapids sequence. When they stop for the night, get a little lecture about Trope Men are B-A-D, have some discussion about bullying, how people are ruining the planet, and discuss Duke’s enlistment in the Army and deployment. Oh, throw a little science in there now and again, since that’s supposed to be why they’re there.

Wash, lather, repeat.

Finally, at the 70% mark, get around to the murder that’s featured so prominently in the blurb. Jack’s either had his head hit, or he’s hit his head while falling/stumbling or something. Tess is on the beach, and for some reason her bikini top is loosened or off. Duke is first to the scene, and he reties Tess’ top, then for some odd reason, drags Jack’s body about ten feet or so. And this is the part where I got mad, after sitting through all these social things the author clearly wanted to say. o they need to be said? Yes. Are they important things? Absolutely. Did they need to be said like this, instead of in, say, a nonfiction book, instead of with a half-hearted murder thrown in? Nope.

In a world obsessed with images and videos, and the one time you would absolutely want to take either pictures and/or videos, and preferably both – like when there’s been a murder (maybe) or a death by misadventure (maybe) – no one in your entire party thinks to do so? Or at least, with all the science nerds in the group who are used to drawing mud layouts or strata, at least make some sketches of the scene, not a single brainiac thinks to do so? Come on. Nothing at all is done to preserve the scene. But you know what does happen?

Everyone with the ability and in the right place to do so wants to take the credit/blame for the murder of a terrible man. Carol, his wife, she wants the blame. Then Glen, then Duke. There’s even a brief discussion of Tess having done it, without remembering. Jenny decides she and Ray will talk to everyone, but by this time, they’ve all been talking amongst themselves, and both of them act like they’re never spoken to another human being in this instance.

In the end, they dig a shallow grave – the “Fresh Grave” of the title – put Jack in it, and move on, intending to get to a particular spot in the river, which is the next it of civilization (sort of, it’s the next station on the river). There is a Canadian group about a day behind them. Do they wait and say anything to the Canadians, or ask them if they can use their satphone to call ahead (Jenny’s crew lost theirs into the water when shooting some rapids; Duke finds it, but it’s a goner)? Nope. They let the Canadians go ahead an then they mount up and head downriver.

Keep in mind, this is all at the 70% mark when Jack is killed. That leaves next to no time, book-wise, to get to the bottom of it, and the only bottom of it we have is a bunch of conflicting confessions. in the end, no one is blamed, they report Jack’s death as misadventure, and that’s it.

I wanted to like it. Small group, killer among us, rafting in sometimes dangerous conditions, with a hundred things that could go wrong, and basically cut off from civilization? That should be a great story. Unfortunately, we got a lot of social justice and environmental stuff, and the afterthought of a murder. None of the characters really moves past the trope tied around their necks except, ironically, Jack, who winds up killed because he’s the epitome of a bunch of things wrong with the world today.

As a sidenote: the Ray/Duke romance is not, really. They share one kiss, and usually snuggle up in their sleeping bags when stopping for the nights, but every other chance to be alone is interrupted. There’s a slight hint of things going somewhere at the end, but Ray lives elsewhere, so who knows. This is an undeveloped subplot.

It seems the author couldn’t make up their mind as to what they really wanted to write. If it was about all the social stuff, I’d give it maybe 3.5 stars. As a mystery, I’m giving it two stars out of five. Sorry.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Last Redemption – Rick Cahill #8 (Matt Coyle)

Rick Cahill is back, and the poor guy can’t catch a break.

At least here – at least at the beginning -he’s safely ensconced behind a desk, running employment checks for companies and pulling in a regular income from it. He’s also been diagnosed with CTE (chronic, traumatic encephalopathy, AKA head trauma from football) and is experiencing brain fog and missing time, something he has not told wife Leah, who is carrying their first child. He still feels the itch of being in the field, though, running down a case.

So when Moira, his best friend, wants Rick to tail her son to make sure he isn’t violating a restraining order, he doesn’t think twice. Moira is his friend, after all, and tailing someone without interacting with them seems safe enough.

It never is, though.

Rick trails the son and finds out he’s visiting an apartment not just in the same complex in which his girlfriend lives, but directly across from it. What is going on here? When Rick goes to speak to the girlfriend, he finds her dead – murdered in her apartment. When the son’s boss also ends up dead, Rick has to decide whether to tell law enforcement that he tailed the young man to his place of employment during the time stated as the time of death. Moira’s son? Vanished. And the primary suspect in both murders.

The case takes a giant leap here into the investigation, and it is wild, involving a consulting company that has top programmers in its stable, a secret project, competing firms, corporate espionage, and a new technology for screening DNA in search of various conditions so the problematic genes can be “switched off”. That reminded me of <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2502504501″ target=”blank”>this book</a> about Theranos and their “one drop” wonder machine that never worked.

The stakes get higher, and more dangerous, especially for Rick and his unpredictable time losses. Moira finds out by accident that he’s been seeing a neurologist, and insists he tell Leah, or she will. He promises to do so, then promptly breaks that promise when Leah goes out of town for a big design job. He offers excuses to Moira, but knows he must do it, because Moira is a woman of her word.

The last 150 pages are so are terrific: action packed, danger, loose threads pulled together, and an entirely satisfying ending.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Nowhere to Hide – Faith McClellan #4 (LynDee Walker)

When your Gran’s dearest friend asks you to investigate something, you don’t ask any questions except where and who.

The who, in this case, is Samson the pig, raised by teenager Kelsey from a runt destined to be culled, a la Charlotte’s Web. Samson, as it turns out, is a YouTube star, and Kelsey’s videos keep the entire family afloat. A note here: Samson the Pig is said to have 40 million subscribers. That would make it a larger channel that The DoDo – one of the largest channels devoted to animal videos – which has somewhere around 16 million the last time I checked. So that part rang a bit false, but pulling down 200K a month did not, based on the (imaginary) size of the channel, and assuming a gigantic number of views per video.

Texas Ranger Faith McClellan, in her fourth appearance, dutifully goes to talk to the family. Mom and the son, Kyle, are not home -she’s told they’ve gone off to a hunting cabin. The housekeeper, with an accent that comes and goes, Kelsey, and her (a tad strange) father are able to answer some questions, but many remain – who would do this, and what possible motive could there be? Kelsey, of course, is brokenhearted.

McClellan walks around the house and the scene of the crime, finding a rather large secret of the son’s rather quickly. She learns that the killing was particularly vicious, with blood everywhere and the killer also decapitated the head (now missing). The carcass she loads up in her truck and takes to the morgue for the coroner to look at. She discovers another hog was also killed, although his head was not taken and the family broke down the body and cooked some of it, the rest going into the freezer.

Meanwhile, McClellen also has to do a bunch of wedding0related stuff: dress, caterers, etc. Her overbearing mother is helping – and by helping, I mean basically taking over all of it. Her fiance Graham is assisting her with the case, which she worries might be the beginnings of a serial killer, and that the killer will move up a bracket to start offing people.

The case seems to have a ton of possible suspects: the brother, a jealous girl from school, the father, the boyfriend/not boyfriend. As McClellen fears, people start dying,even as she and Graham start to get a grip on the case. About halfway through it became obvious to me who the killer was, but it was still an enjoyable ride watching McClellan and Graham make their way through to (livestreaming) denouement.

No terrible slow spots, and in this instance, the bad guy infodump at the end is warranted – it is being livestreamed, after all.

Solid four out of five stars. Plus a desire to go back and read the first three in the series, to see how McClellan came to this version of herself.

Thanks to Severn River and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Girl in the Ground – Nikki Hunt #4 (Stacey Green)

After three months away from the job, FBI agent Nikki Hunt is back in the office, and expected to gradually ease her way back into full duty. That plan takes a detour when she’s tapped to lead the investigation into a heavily pregnant, due any day now surrogate for a rich couple.

Her boyfriend Rory is also having issues after finding skeletal remains on a job site. After they find a locket with the body (as well as fetal remains), Rory becomes suspect number one after it’s clear he knows who the young woman is: a girl he date briefly and then broke up with at graduation. But is the child his? Did he kill her? He doesn’t do himself any favors by being antagonistic to the police.

The FBI and local police continue their search for the mussing surrogate, but there are few clues and fewer leads. Eventually, they make a plea to the public for any information.

I read the first book in this series, but now the two between that one and this. At some point, Nikki’s ex-husband was murdered. After another agent comes to town, claiming to be working on a tax fraud case and Nikki learns that the missing surrogate is also that agent’s confidential informant, Nikki starts going through her ex’s papers, looking for clues as to why he was investigating the owner of a limo service – who has conveniently flown to NY and disappeared.

Nikki gets the scoop on the missing surrogate, who once was held by a sex trafficker for a period of time before she escaped. Is he back now, and reclaiming her?

Nikki and company find more skeletal remains, and more fetal remains with them, and eventually determine how the girls were likely chosen, and based on descriptions given by the missing surrogate, zero in on the likely suspects.

The story is good, and there aren’t any dragging parts, even when the characters are moving between locations. My only dislike is Rory – I get it, his brother was wrongfully accused and imprisoned for something he didn’t do, but Rory should have just lawyered up at the first second the police started sniffing around, so as to relieve some of hi anxiety about being questioned over and over. For their par, the police should have understood why he didn’t want to constantly hear their questions, fearing they would railroad him as they did his brother.

The mystery tied together nicely, and there were some pretty gruesome deaths in this one, so if you don’t have a strong stomach, you might want to skip this one, or at least skim or skip the fire scene.

Overall: a solid four out of five stars.

Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the reading copy.

 

Review: Trial by Fire (Carson Taite)

I think I may very well be in the minority on this one, but the book did not deliver for me, either on the mystery side (as it was categorized) or on the romance side (implied).

Wren Bishop is on loan from a fancy, high powered law firm to the public defender’s office. She seems overly optimistic and sunny, and is somehow blind to the fact that waltzing around in designer clothes, with designer bags, and crapping on the coffee served in the department might not win her any friends. Or maybe she doesn’t care. Either way, it isn’t a good look.

Lennox Roy is on the prosecution side and has what seems not just a chip on her shoulder because of her poor as hell childhood but a superiority complex. She also sees things in black or white, guilty or innocent, and she’s sure that any defendant – including the one Wren winds up defending – is guilty. This led to some amusement on my part that any intelligent person (as Lennox supposedly is) would look at the investigative work the police did on that case and not see the gaping holes it had. My question at this point was whether Lennox had any redeeming qualities that would get me to like her. After her declaration she’d never date anyone on the defense side of the world, as Wren is at the moment, just because a previous relationship with the woman who represented her druggie brother went down in flames, I decided that the answer was probably not.

There are some courtroom scenes, and these are the best part of the book. There are a lot of office politics, some outside politics (a judge with whom Lennox is friends is running for office) and a lot of talk about wealth inequality.

Wren winds up hiring an investigator on her own because the PD investigators are swamped with work, and ends up with evidence that points the crime away from the guy she’s defending. She goes to Lennox and convinces her to get some evidence, and Lennox finally sees it.

It was too late for me by that time. There wasn’t any real romance to speak of other than both of them thinking about the other and a kiss in someone’s garage. They didn’t spend any real time together, although Wren did break things off with her kind of girlfriend who she didn’t like that much, so there’s that sacrifice, I suppose.

The ending was rushed and the “I love you”s felt far too early, which is something I also noted in my review of Her Consigliere by the same author. This could easily have been a bit longer, with more of the romance prominent through the middle of the story to better lead to the ending. This book is apparently part of a series of books in this universe, so I wonder if these two will have cameos down the line to show that they’re still together and/or managing to work on Lennox’s brother’s case to resolve it one way or another.

Only two stars out of five for me. Sorry.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Reviwe: Pay or Play – Charlie Waldo #3 (Howard Michael Gould)

If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be: annoying.

Charlie Waldo is a former cop who helped send an innocent man to prison, only to turn around, do a ton of work to help get him released, only to see that man murdered before he got out (I think, on that last part – pretty sure he was still in when he was murdered). Waldo resigns from the LAPD, buys a small house up in the hills, and rarely comes off the mountain.

Except in fire season, because he’s living in Idyllwild (which was almost burned right off the map in real life during that rather heinous fire season of 2018). Before he leaves, though, a trafficker by the name of Don Q wants something. These two apparently have some history, which I found I didn’t care about. Don Q wants Waldo to find out the identity of a homeless man who seemed to have drowned in a fountain. Waldo doesn’t want to do it, but I’m guessing when a well connected and sort of powerful drug dealer tells you to do something, you just do it.

Here’s some of the annoying: Don Q tries to give him an envelope of cash – take it, dummy, you don’t have a job – but Waldo is wedded to this minimalism thing he started after resigning from the LAPD, and he already has 100 Things (yes, it’s capitalized). Don Q takes care of that for him by taking his laptop and leaving the money. Other annoyance: Waldo donating big pieces of his money to charities. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, if you don’t have giant signs screaming that you need therapy. Waldo does need some serious therapy.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend he ghosted to go worship at the altar of minimalism in the hills needs him to come sit in on a meeting with a prospective client. He agrees, but not until we get another dose of the 100 Things stuff, this time bitching about the things the girlfriend has in the house.

But they go, and it’s a scripted reality show judge who wants to get another lawyer off her back and break her contract with (disguised Netflix) in favor of syndicating herself, which would yield many more zeroes on her paycheck. Lorena, Waldo’s girlfriend, and the rest of her crew work on that.

Someone is also trying to blackmail the judge, and she talks privately with Waldo about that, telling him to go figure it out. That sets Waldo off on a quest to solve a 35 year old crime that was ruled an accident: a pledge to a frat who wandered off and fell off a small cliff. I think the mystery was two levels too complex, really, and it didn’t have to be.

Throughout all this, we get ample helping of Waldo fetishizing minimalism and his 100 Things rule, and I have to say that crap got old, really fast. He also has a hangup about carbon emissions and is constantly on Lorena’s case about it and worrying about his own footprint as he flies around, since the case takes him out of LA. I get it, we should be more concerned about the environment, but there’s a patience level for everything, and Waldo blew that up for me by the end of the fifth chapter.

Meanwhile, Don Q is on Waldo’s case about the homeless dude, who Waldo finds out was a man the others in the same homeless “camp” called The Professor. The solving of this mystery involves two brothers, an almost abandoned property, a grave, and a dog.

By the end, I decided the only people who were not entirely vile or overly annoying were the homeless people The Professor knew, and Don Q.

It’s written well enough – although in my head, I assigned a very whiny voice to Waldo when he started in on the 100 Things or carbon emissions stuff – and the mystery is okay, even if a bit too complex for its own good.

Three out of five stars.

Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Cold Killer – DI Barton #4 (Ross Greenwood)

Nothing starts a book off right like having someone getting their arm chainsawed off by a career criminal. Amazingly enough, it turns out to be self-defense.

That pulls us into the story. But it is not quick to action, at least for DI Barton. Instead, we pop into the POV of a prisoner, and how he has always been top dog in prison, but he’s older now, slower, and can’t take down the prisoners who attack him in his cell (which he shares with the career criminal’s son). This takes up a good part of the beginning, since this is where the prisoner is getting to the area of the prison where the child molesters are. There, he discovers that the father of his best friend is in the same block. His best friend committed suicide in front of this prisoner and the career criminal above, as his father had moved on from abusing him to abusing his younger brother. He figures justice needs a little help, since the man was going to be released soon (as were a few others on the block, including the POV prisoner) so he smothers the old man in his cell.

Now Barton makes an appearance, as any unexplained death in the prison has to be investigated. From the looks of it, it’s just old age. Barton and one of his team members, Strange, interview the 60 or so inmates on the block, looking for a possible killer. They’re all creepy in their own way, but none seem like killers. The autopsy reveals some things that may be consistent with suffocation, but then again, may not be. Result: inconclusive, leaving Barton to figure it out.

Then one of the released pedophiles is found dead, and Barton believes it’s all connected, so his team starts digging. Are they being targeted? If so, by whom,and why, other than they’re all scumbag deviants?

It’s a good investigation, and flows along smoothly, with occasional scenes from Barton’s home. His mother has dementia, with moments of clarity, but he and his wife and kids are happy to be able to spend whatever time she has left with her.

As the story moves toward its end, the bodies are piling up, and strangely, the prisoner who killed the old man in prison turns out to be a bit of a sympathetic character. the pedophiles, not so much.

There aren’t any real draggy parts in the middle/guts of the investigation. I’ve not read any other books in the series, and that made keeping track of all the people on Barton’s team a little difficult. Additionally, they have a shared history that would have been helpful to know about before going into this book, but it can be read as a standalone.

Generally, I’m not a fan of mysteries where there aren’t enough clues for the reader to determine who the murderer is, but the mystery is so complex here, and the story well told, so that issue is offset for me.

Four and a half stars out of five, rounded up to five.

Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Her Dying Day (Mindy Carlson)

Pear Blossom Jubilee Masterson – yes, raised on a commune, isolated from the world – is an aspiring filmmaker who is sleeping with her (married) advisor. We’re off to a great start!

As it turns out, only her advisor calls her Pear Blossom, so we’re not stuck with unending litanies of that name. Everyone else calls her June. June has – for the last time – change the subject of her film. It’s going to be a film about a 20 year old cold case: the disappearance of Greer Larkin, a mystery novelist. Larkin was a hit at age 14 with her first murder mystery, and after that, was withdrawn from school, and isolated from the rest of the world. Larkin is June’s favorite writer, as they share the same general upbrringing, on their own tiny island in the sea of humanity, and because June loves the stories. June has read and reread all the books, and she participates in a forum at greersgone.com where she and other fans of Larkin’s endlessly speculate about what could have happened and post whatever clues they believe they have about the disappearance.

June sends out emails to Larkin’s mother Blanche (high and mighty, with money and lawyers out the wazoo), Jonathan (fiance and general scumbag), Rachel (devoted friend who wanted more than friendship) and Bethany (Larkin’s agent). When she gets replies, it’s an opportunity to see how each one thinks, and their guesses as to what happened. The women all blame Jonathan, of course, and that’s only natural. The partner is always the first and primary suspect. His motive? Money- there’s an account in the Caymans under his name with a whopping $18 million in it. But the account is frozen and Blanche doesn’t want another nickel of Larkin’s money going to him.

Rachel blames Jonathan as well, claiming he was abusive to Larkin, something he denies. Bethany blames Jonathan too, not just for Larkin’s disappearance but for the quality of her writing deteriorating, something Rachel also throws at Jonathan’s feet, claiming he controlled Larkin with booze and drugs.

June interviews them all, and casts general questions to the forum so as not to tip them off there’s a film being made about Larkin’s vanishing. June seems to be able to do better than the police did – of course, that was before the internet is what it is today – and as she gets further and further toward the answer, someone dies, and she is threatened as well unless she stops her investigation.

It’s a fun book- not for the death and disappearance and threats, of course, but for the way in which June goes about putting the pieces together, and her (sometimes) inventive ways of getting information.

Side note to publishers and/or writers who use domains in their books: go register the thing and put content on it.

The ending is a bit tropey, with the villains giving up an infodump about their why, but it is coherent, consistent reasoning, even if a little weird. There are a few instances, and one in particular where something is presented to June that could have been presented to the police back in the day to help them, and it’s odd that the character didn’t do that. Other than these things, it’s a solid, fun read.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Buried Lies – DI Gaby Darin #5 (Jenny O’Brien)

I had read Fallen Angel, number three in this series, last year. This one feels rougher than that one, and not as good a read. But first, a summary:

Hannah Thomas returns from a spa outing with a friend to find her fiance dead and her son missing. DI Gaby Darin and her team are called in to investigate. Could Hannah herself be the killer? Or is something from her past catching up with her?

There are bound to be some spoilery bits here, so consider yourself warned.

In book three, Darin is only an acting DI. Between then and now – in book four, I imagine, which I did not read – Darin has had “acting” dropped, and she’s now the boss for real, as it were, of her group. I find this a bit difficult, as Darin is not exactly the polished of stones: she is impuldive, curt, or even rude. She doesn’t seem to have any people skills or he ability to bridge the space between her crew and her superiors. I’ll give her a break on her relationship with Rusty, the medical examiner, because romantic relationships can be choppy waters, but she’s been mooning over him since book three, and I can’t help but think she would be better at this. Instead, she’s often snippy with him in a way that really puts a damper on things.

When Darin gets to the scene, she notes the dead guy (apparent suicide) says, “OK, missing kid.”, but there is zero urgency conveyed through this beginning, and crucial part of the investigation, either about the dead man or the missing child – a child who has a serious medical issue (type 1 diabetes, for which he wears an insulin pump. No frantic energy about searching nearby, in the event the kid was frightened by either the actions of the dead man, who is also a former cop, or by any other persons who might have been present. She doesn’t stay even a little while CSI starts going through the scene. She doesn’t pick up, it seems, that Hannah is not devastated by these events. All in all: she doesn’t seem to notice the things she should be, or doing/ordering the things that need to be done with quickness.

Since nothing is happening with urgency, it drags the rest of the book with it. There are far too many scenes where people are deciding what to have for dinner, or worrying about a colleague’s wedding. Far too much “X seemed like (something), but that wasn’t the case, here’s why: blah.” I don’t need a writer to tell me these things. I need them to show me these things, so as the characters go about their business, we can understand that Mal, for instance, generally doesn’t look like he’s paying attention, but actually is intensely focused.

Although, to be honest, nobody in this book but the villain seems to be laser focused on anything. I will give the book points for this: the villain doesn’t stand around opining on all the ways they set things up. They just say “it’s because of this thing” and then disappears, something I welcome.

This would keep you occupied on a plane or train or beach, but to me it’s a bi like cotton candy. Sure, you can eat it. But ultimately, it’s unsatisfying, and easily forgotten.

Two and a half stars, rounded down to two. I was disappointed in this, as I had expected things to get better, not worse, from the three stars I gave Fallen Angel.

Thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for the reading copy.