4 stars out of 5
When I read the author's first book in the series featuring detective Tracy Crosswhite - My Sister's Grave - I absolutely loved it and vowed to read the second, Her Final Breath. Alas, that one somehow got lost in my ever-growing list of to-read books, which I'm still hoping to rectify as soon as possible; so when I was offered the opportunity to read this one, the third in the series, I jumped on it (thank you to the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a copy in exchange for a review).
Tracy, whose beloved sister was murdered when they were young, is now a detective and intent on solving cases involving other murder victims. Here, she is called in when a man, married to the daughter of a high-powered attorney, has been murdered. Apparently, he was killed by his soon-to-be-divorced wife as an act of self-defense as their son looked on.
Concurrently, Tracy and her BF Dan attend the funeral of Buzz Almond, father of Tracy's former police academy classmate Jenny, who is now the sheriff in the rather remote Washington county where her late father once held the same position. Some 40 years ago, Buzz investigated the death of a Native American girl who, it was ruled at the time, committed suicide. Never satisfied with that ruling and believing the death to be murder, Buzz kept the file open; now, because it was so important to her late father, Jenny asks Tracy to look into it. Partly because of her friendship with Jenny and partly because of her experiences with her own sister, Tracy agrees - even though she must conduct the investigation on her own time.
It is the cold case, in fact, that consumes the lion's share of this book. Here and there, a chapter (or part of a chapter) reverts to 1976, where we learn what was really going on, but most of the story centers on Tracy's efforts to ferret out the truth. There's plenty of forensics involved - for the most part using newer technology that could never have been unearthed that long ago - that keeps things interesting and informative. Close to the end come a couple of twists in both cases that surprised me - always a hallmark of a good murder mystery.
So why 4 stars on this one instead of 5? Mostly, I think, because I'd like to have seen the domestic violence murder case fleshed out a little more - it almost seems as if that storyline was thrown in just so Tracy's police cohorts would have a chance to get their names in print. Oh, and there's one other thing I'll niggle about, although I pinky-swear it had no bearing whatsoever on my rating: The phrase "panties in a bunch" is trite but mildly amusing the first time around. But by the third time I came across it, my own had started to creep up into places they don't belong.
In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer, May 2016); 368 pp.