The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

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The Trapped Girl is the fourth novel in Robert Dugoni’s series featuring Seattle Detective Tracy Crosswhite. This one could easily be read on its own (not as part of the series), but I would recommend the entire series…events happen in the lives of the characters (especially Tracy) that affect subsequent storylines, and these are characters we come to know and care about, so trust me and start with My Sister’s Grave if you haven’t yet begun this series.

In this latest installment, a young man discovers a woman’s body submerged in a crab pot in the cold waters of Puget Sound. Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section have to first figure out who the victim is, then figure out who put her into the crab pot, and why. When the autopsy shows the victim has gone to great lengths (including extensive plastic surgery) to conceal her identity, Tracy knows she was running from someone or something.

Subsequently,evidence indicates the corpse may actually be the body of a woman who mysteriously disappeared some months earlier, and Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s murder (featured in an earlier book in the series).

Clues start to appear that suggest a complex story involving “ brutal betrayal and desperate greed,” and Tracy once again becomes emotionally involved with the case of a murdered young woman.

I am a huge fan of Robert Dugoni’s series featuring Tracy Crosswhite. Each book in this series is a terrific thriller that will keep many readers guessing until the end. (I am not the best at figuring out the mystery before its reveal in contemporary mysteries and thrillers, so this may not be true for everyone, but it’s a great plot with outstanding character development. I give it five stars, with thanks to Thomas & Meercer and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Escape Clause by John Sandford

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Virgil Flowers is to Lucas Davenport as Joe Pike is to Elvis Cole, or as Clete Purcell is to Dave Robicheaux, or as Hawk is to Spenser. If that makes sense, you have likely read novels by Robert Crais (Pike/Cole) or James Lee Burke (Purcell/Robicheaux) as well as by John Sandford, for whom Lucas Davenport has been a solid character, as he works away in Minnesota, solving crimes in the “Prey” series – sometimes with the help of his buddy Virgil Flowers, and sometimes without. And then sometimes Virgil gets his own novel (just as Joe Pike has, in the Crais series).

Escape Clause is the latest from John Sandford, and is the ninth featuring Virgil Flowers (aka “that fuckin’ Flowers”) as the protagonist. In this one, the story opens with a story about two rare, beautiful and extremely valuable tigers who have gone missing from the zoo, and Virgil is called in on the case. As is usual in Sandford’s books, this isn’t really a whodunit, as the facts of the crime are laid out from the get-go. It is more about the chase, and this one is doubly interesting – in addition to the “chasing the bad guys” story, there is the tension of whether the tigers will still be alive when they are located.

Along with trying to find and save the tigers, this book includes detail about Virgil’s relationship with his girlfriend Frankie and her sister Sparkle, who have moved in for the summer as she does research into migrant workers, which doesn’t go over well with some locals. As if that weren’t complicating enough, she thinks Virgil is quite a guy:
“You mess around with Sparkle,” Frankie told Virgil, “you could get yourself stabbed.”
     “She carries a knife?”
     “No, but I do.”

There are some repeat characters in this story and some mention of other people and events that have happened in earliet Sandford books, but this one easily stands on its own, and people new to Sandford should feel comfortable jumping in!

The side story about the migrant workers doesn’t really add to the main story, but perhaps we will see more of Sparkle or this issue in future Sandford books. This is straightforward entertainment that doesn’t demand too much of the reader, but offers a lot in the way of entertainment. I give it five stars just because I enjoy Sandford’s books, and this one is a good example of bringing in new people without diminishing the role of favorites such as Virgil.

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

Moral Defense by Marcia Clark

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Moral Defense, by Marcia Clark (yes, THAT Marcia Clark, of OJ fame) is the second in the series featuring a criminal defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman, based in Los Angeles. I first met Sam in Blood Defense, the first title in the series, in which Sam defended a decorated homicide detective accused in a double murder. Turns out there was a significant connection between Sam and the defendant, which was a complete blindside to her when she found out, and which pretty much rocked her world. That defendant reappears in this second book, and it appears he will be a recurring character in the series.

Sam and her two associates (one is a genius ex-con, the other her closest childhood friend) sort of fly by the seat of their collective pants, bending some rules and possibly breaking others, as they work to get their clients off at all costs. In this second book, Sam is hired as a legal advocate for a teenager named Cassie who has been accused of murdering her father and brother and leaving her mother clinging to life. It’s the perfect case for an attorney longing to make it to the bigtime, media-frenzy cases that will guarantee success. As the case unfolds, Sam discovers she identifies with Cassie (which might be clouding her judgment, but which motivates her to work even more ferociously to solve the mystery and keep Cassie from going to jail).

I admit to a fascination with Marcia Clark, going back to the early 90s when she was a media star as well as a legal star as she battled to convict OJ (double murders seem to recur in her books. She has another series with a female protagonist who is on the other side, prosecuting cases, which is clearly where Marcia’s expertise would seem to lie. But I think perhaps writing this series, about defending accused criminals, has allowed Ms. Clark to explore how she might have acted if she were truly on the (“anything goes as long as you don’t get caught”) defense side of the aisle.

Sam is a great characted, and her opinions suggest how Marcia may have felt during her legal career: “I’d been trashed on cable for dressing like a bargain-basement rag doll. Someday, women won’t have to put up with it. Someday, people are going to care more about what we say and do than what we look like. But that day didn’t seem to be coming any time soon…”

Her “anything goes” approach is reflected as she speaks to key figures in the investigation. In one instance, her words and her thoughts are somewhat at odds: ““Everything you say to me will be confidential. I promise you.” Unless you give me something I can use, in which case I’ll tie you to my bumper and drag you all the way to the courthouse.” In another conversation, she asks “”…You okay with that?” It didn’t really matter, The lawyer controls the case and sets the strategy. The only decisions the clients really get to make are whether to plead guilty and whether to take the stand. But it’s good to let them feel like they have a say in things. Make them ore cooperative.”

I had a few issues with minor details in the story, but they didn’t affect the plot. For example, at one point, she says “Mission Viejo is further south, not far from San Diego.” Which is totally not correct, and has no impact on the story, as it didn’t affect anything as the narrative moved the location of Mission Viejo further from LA. It just seemed slightly sloppy, but I let it go because the story and character development were really pulling me along. I REALLY wanted to know what happened with Cassie, and why Sam was so connected to her.

I look forward to the next books in the Samantha Brinkman series. (Personally, I don’t care if I read any more in the Rachel Knight series, because Sam is a much more interesting character than Rachel, again just IMHO)

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Net Galley for an advance copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. Four stars, and REALLY close to five.