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Review: The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

3 1/2 Stars

This is the 4th installment of the Detective Crosswhite series.  I received this copy from NetGalley and the publishers.  I have also read the previous three books and would definitely recommend reading the previous books, but the author has written these novels in such a way that you can read them without reading the previous installments, but definitely recommend reading them in order, much more satisfying.

A woman’s body is discovered inside a crab pot, submerged deep in the waters of Puget Sound.  Once again, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with yet another difficult case to solve.  The first order of business is to find out who this woman is.  During the course of the investigation, they find that this woman went to a lot of trouble to hide who she really is.  What or who is she running from?

As Tracy and her A Team of detectives begin to unravel this case, they discover that their Jane Doe is actually a woman who went missing weeks earlier from Mount Ranier.  This woman was married and her husband had been the prime suspect in her disappearance and becomes the prime suspect again now that she has been found dead.  Just as the case gets rolling, the team is told that the case is going back into the hands of the jurisdiction that handled the disappearance case.  Tracy doesn’t want to let go and she is willing to risk her entire career to solve this case.

As the case goes on, it dredges up memories of Tracy’s sister and the twenty year search for justice in her case.  This is another case that hits close to home.  The young woman who disappeared had much in common with Tracy.  She lost her entire family at a young age and Tracy feels that she owes it to this woman to find out the truth, no matter the cost.

Once again, Tracy is an admirable protagonist and I love her strength and her convictions.  But I am getting a little bored with the whole “personal connection” to every case.  It’s starting to feel a little forced at this point, as is the strained relationship with her Captain.  The guy is a creep and should have been shown the door after the last book.  Her team is full of amazing people too and I’m glad to see them taking a larger role in this book.  I especially love Faz and Del.  We also get to see more of Tracy from a personal level and her relationship with Dan.  It was nice to see her outside of the role as Detective and in the role of just an ordinary woman in love with a man.

If you have read any of the previous books in this series, I definitely recommend this one.  I would not recommend this to someone who hasn’t read the backstory, it just wouldn’t give you the complete story and for that reason alone, I had to deduct half a star.  It’s always hard to review books in a series to someone who hasn’t read the previous books.  But this is a solid undertaking and I don’t think we are done seeing Detective Tracy Crosswhite.

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Review: Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

4 Stars

This is book two in the Tracy Crosswhite Series.  While you will still enjoy reading this book by itself, you will definitely understand the back-story and get more out of the book itself if you read the previous book My Sister’s Grave.

Tracy is back in Seattle after finally solving the mystery surrounding the murder of her sister two decades earlier.  She comes back to a new killer who the media has dubbed The Cowboy.  He’s killing women in a manner that’s eerily familiar to Tracy.  The women are all hog-tied and die by strangulation.  Is this a copycat or did the wrong person end up behind bars 10 years ago?  A case that involved her captain, Johnny Nolasco and one that he would prefer to keep buried.  Just to add more intrigue, it seems that someone has it out for Tracy after leaving a noose behind at the shooting range for her to find.  Is it the Cowboy or is someone else targeting Tracy?

This is another fairly solid police procedural.  There is drama between Tracy and her captain that gives some additional tension.  He’s a slime ball who has had it out for Tracy ever since they were in the police academy.  The man can definitely carry a grudge.  Their negative chemistry was really good.  He second-guesses every move she makes and he undermines her at every turn through some pretty under-handed methods.  Ever wonder how the media got some of their juiciest tidbits?

The Cowboy was definitely an interesting serial killer.  I was definitely surprised to see who the killer ended up being.  I did enjoy how the case was solved.  I really didn’t see it coming.  It was just one small detail.  One vigilant police officer.  And that’s all it takes sometimes.  I really did enjoy the interaction that Tracy had with the killer in the end.  And I would have paid good money to see the look on her captain’s face.

I did not enjoy the stalker angle.  I know that it ties in the first and second book.  But I just didn’t think that it fit with the rest of the story.  It was nice to see Dan is still in the picture and their interaction and chemistry is still there.  They make a really great team.  I hope that they’ll continue to be able to team up together in the future, because this is certainly not the end for Tracy Crosswhite.

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Review: A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

1 Star

Kendra Donovan is a rising star in the FBI, her team has finally tracked down one of the FBI’s most wanted and she’s there for the takedown.  But everything goes wrong and her team is ambushed and half her team is murdered as she discovers a traitor.  Kendra barely survives after being shot several times but vows revenge against the man responsible for the deaths of her team members.  She ‘goes rogue’ and travels to England to put her plan into motion.

While preparing her assassination attempt, Kendra is surprised by an unexpected complication and ends up needing to flee for her life through the back passages of Aldrich Castle but when she stumbles out of the passageway, she’s faced with an impossible sight.  She is still in Aldrich Castle, but she’s in a different time.  She’s in 1815 and in the presence of the current Duke.  She is mistaken for a maid, hired to help with weekend guests.  Kendra is forced to adapt to the time period until she can figure out how to get out of there and back to her own time.

The body of a young woman is discovered on the grounds of the estate and Kendra can’t help but get involved.  She was a profiler back in her time and she knows she can put her knowledge to use in helping solve the mystery of how this young woman died.  She has none of her 21st century tools at her disposal but must rely on her own wits and extensive knowledge of crime and criminals.

As unbelievable as the premise sounds, I was intrigued.  I’ve read the Outlander series, so I can learn to suspend belief and buy into time travel.  I’ve seen time travel done very well and I’ve seen it done very poorly.  Unfortunately, this was in the latter category.  Kendra is supposed to be a woman of incredible intelligence, someone who was genetically pre-disposed to be a genius and everything in her background seems to confirm this.  So how does someone so smart act so unbelievably stupid?

Kendra constantly uses phrases and words that would have absolutely no meaning to anyone from the 19th century and instead of everyone looking at her like she belongs in an asylum, they just shake their heads and let her continue.  And how does a woman (one posing as a maid no less) somehow become the lead investigator of a murder case?  She can’t explain how she knows what she knows, and everyone is content to just leave it at that?  And the romance angle?  Give me a break.

It’s not often that I give a book 1 Star, but I just couldn’t justify giving any more.  The characters were not believable.  The main character was annoying.  The entire situation was ludicrous.  And the ending?  Atrocious.  Apparently there are going to be more Kendra Donovan books, but not for this reader.

 

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Review: Pretty Little Things by Jillianne Hoffman

4 Stars

Bobby Dees, an investigator who heads up the Crimes Against Children squad in Miami, is called in to investigate a possible endangered runaway.  Lainey Emerson is missing.  She’s the thirteen year old middle child of a family who has had their share of run-ins with the police already.  Her older sister has a history of running away and she’s also had problems with substance abuse.  Her mother works too much and her step-father favors his own child over another man’s problem, Lainey and her sister.  Lainey didn’t come home one Friday night after saying she was going to a movie with a friend.  She wasn’t reported missing for two days and the local police and even her family are writing her off as a runaway, but they call in Special Agent Dees anyway just to make sure they cover all the bases and cover their own asses in the process.

Special Agent Dees has been the savior of many missing children.  Bringing them home when all hope seems lost.  But the one child he couldn’t bring home was his own daughter.  Now as it nears the anniversary of her disappearance, another missing child is found dead.  Her death and location depicted by the killer after he sent a painting to to show the police, especially Bobby Dees, what he’s done.

This book is full of twists and turns.  I wasn’t expecting many of the things that happened.  The author kept me on my toes and always guessing.  I think that some may be able to untangle the web and figure out who the killer is or there may be others, like me, that just went along for the ride and had a blast with this mystery.

This one won’t be for everyone, it is about missing children and violence against young people.  That’s not everyone’s cup of tea and while the violence isn’t overly descriptive, your imagination can run with it and figure it out.  Those of us with children can find this an uncomfortable position to be in when we’re imagining this happening to our own daughters.  Definitely a solid mystery and suspense novel worthy of taking a chance.

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Review: Retribution by Jillianne Hoffman

3 Stars

C.J. Townsend is a formidable Florida prosecutor.  She’s known for keeping her cool even in the most horrific of cases.  The serial killer known as Cupid has just been caught and the case has landed in her lap.  This sadistic killer has taken the lives of at least 11 women in the most horrific manner.  He has removed their hearts and left them posed, ready to be discovered.  And now he has been caught in the most mundane of manners, a routine traffic stop.  One that leads the officer to ask to search his vehicle and ultimately find one of the victims in the trunk.  This looks like a pretty open and shut case.  But looks can be deceiving.

There are quite a few twists and turns in this book.  You think you know who the bad guys are only to be left with your jaw hanging.  You empathize with C.J. and you want to root for her, even when some of the things she’s doing aren’t quite ethical.  The accused is reprehensible and disgusting but wrapped up in a nice looking package, someone you least likely find standing trial for his life.  In the beginning you almost feel bad for him as it seems like he’s being railroaded.  But then his true colors start to shine through and you can’t help but want to strap him down to the electric chair and flip the switch yourself.

The utter depravity of the murders was quite shocking.  I’m somewhat used to graphic violence, but the descriptions of what was done was a bit much even for me.  It wasn’t really over the top, but I’ve never been a fan of blood and gore.  I was pretty creeped out by the medical examiner too.  He just seemed really, really creepy.

I wanted more from C.J. and I was somewhat disappointed in the romantic side of the story.  It didn’t really feel like it fit.  Especially in the middle of the trial against a serial killer between the prosecutor and the lead detective on the task force.  And as much as you really want to like and empathize with C.J., she got on my nerves.  She’s criticizing the actions of the defense attorney while she’s breaking not only ethics but probably a law or two.  It’s hard to get behind a hypocrite.

I did enjoy the book and if you’re looking for a crime novel with a pretty solid plot and some really good twists and turns and some pretty gruesome murders, you won’t go wrong here.  I’ll probably read a few of the authors other books too.

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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

3 Stars

I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would.  I wasn’t really impressed in the beginning and I’ll admit, the only reason I stuck with it at first was to get to the bottom of who died and who did it.  I did find myself enjoying the story the further along I got, but it was a rough start.  I think the writing style wasn’t my cup of tea more than anything else.  I usually don’t mind much when the story shifts from one point of view to another, but not only did this go from one point of view to another there was the addition of snippets of interviews done with other parents after the incident.  I think they were meant to give more backstory and what the whole mess looked like from other parties, but it ended up being distracting and confusing.

The story revolves around the Kindergarten class and their parents.  Jane is new in town and her son Ziggy is accused on the very first day of bullying the young daughter of Renata.  It quickly becomes a matter of which camp you are in.  Camp Renata where they go so far as to start a petition to have a child who was accused but never proved to have bullied anyone removed from the school.  Then there is camp Jane where everyone is just a little less catty and more interested in making sure that Jane and her son are treated fairly.

The main characters are Madeline, Celeste and Jane with everyone else kind of being in the background.

Madeline has to deal with her ex-husband and his wife.  They have moved into the same suburb and their daughter just happens to be in the same class as Madeline’s youngest daughter.  To make matters worse, her oldest daughter has decided that she no longer wants to live with Madeline, she wants to live with her dad and stepmother, Bonnie.  She lies to herself and everyone else, saying that she’s perfectly okay with the arrangement, but she’s devastated.

Celeste is the quintessential perfect woman.  Rich husband, perfectly behaved twin boys.  Stunningly beautiful with what looks like the perfect life  But looks can be deceiving and there are cracks in this perfect life.  Little lies that soon turn into big lies.  Secrets that threaten to come out and things that are seen and can’t be unseen.

Jane is the new mother in town.  She’s younger than most of the other “kindy” moms and was even mistaken as a nanny during orientation.  She is a single mom and she hasn’t told Ziggy or even  her own family who the father is.  She just tells them it was a one night stand and she doesn’t remember him.  She has her own secrets too.

It really was an interesting book and the interaction between the women was done very well.  I wish that it was more just their voices instead of interspersing the voices of other parents, but that’s just my opinion.  I did enjoy the mystery aspect and trying to figure out who was going to die and who was going to be the one at blame.  I wasn’t quite as surprised by who died as I was by how it came about and who did it.  I think the book was worth it just for the satisfaction that came from the revelation.

Good “chick-lit” book and it was a quick read, so I’d recommend it to someone who wants a light, fast read for the beach or plane trip.  Or just wanting to curl up on the couch with a nice hot cup of tea and a warm blanket.

 

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Review: Hold Still by Lisa Regan

3 Stars

Jocelyn Rush is a seasoned detective who becomes involved in the investigation into a case where a woman has been attacked, kidnapped, crucified and raped by multiple assailants.  They are easily able to identify two of the men, but a third, has eluded capture because he has worn a mask to protect his identity.  The attacks cause her to have nightmares about suppressed memories she has of her sister’s attack years earlier as a teenager.  An attack that drove her family apart and nearly ended her own life.

The investigation progresses and Jocelyn is loaned out to the SVU squad to help bring down this trio of attackers.  Add in a hunky lead investigator, Caleb, and you have a formula for romance, of course.  The DA on the case happens to be her ex-boyfriend as well.  Talk about a conflict of interest!   But somehow they are all able to get over themselves long enough to investigate the case and bring the identity of the third assailant to light.  You do have to suspend belief during a few (OK more than a few) passages.  Especially when one of the victims is able to locate a piece of information about the case that the entire police department with all of their resources was unable to find and she was able to do it in just a few clicks of the mouse and a Google search.

The characters were somewhat flat and formulaic.  It was hard for me to connect with Jocelyn, she seemed to have an utter disregard for her actual job and seemed like she was going on a crusade and was willing to go outside the law to get what she wanted.  The romance was stilted and completely unnecessary.  I couldn’t connect to that aspect of the book at all.  It just seemed contrived and out of place.  Especially right in the middle of an investigation.  Before or after, okay.  But right in the middle?  I just can’t see that happening and couldn’t stretch my imagination enough to even halfway enjoy it.

The story line was okay.  The plot was actually pretty strong and even though many of the characters fell a bit flat, it was still an entertaining read.  You will figure out the mystery of the third attacker even before Jocelyn does, but the climax is ultimately pretty satisfying.  The story may have a bit of a fairy tale ending, but sometimes you need a story where the good guys actually win for once and everyone comes out ahead.  I would recommend to anyone who wants a quick crime thriller that doesn’t make you think too much.

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