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Friday, February 17, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Since Jan. 1, I've read 17 books - five ahead of schedule to reach my goal of 100 by the end of 2017. Of those, six have been good enough to earn a five-star rating, the highest possible on the major book ratings sites. Now comes this, the 18th, and if I could give it six stars - seven, even - I'd do it in a heartbeat. The story is so intriguing, and the characters (and interaction among them) so captivating that I went so far as recording two favorite TV shows instead of watching them live because I couldn't wait to finish it. And that's a first for me.

Admittedly, some of my enthusiasm stems from the subject matter; I spent 16 years of my full-time working life in the news business - albeit the print side - and I'm fairly familiar with broadcast journalism as well. The combination of the TV news station setting and murder sounded right up my alley - and to that end, it couldn't have been more perfect. I will not, however, deem it a "thriller" by my definition; the story moves along at a fast pace and every single page kept and held my complete attention, but only a small section actually pushed me to the edge of my seat. 

The story begins as seasoned and highly capable TV news producer Virginia Knightly is notified that a young attorney from Georgetown has gone missing. That alone wouldn't be enough to cause her nose for news to twitch, but then clues begin to indicate that a closer sniff may be in order. The woman was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant - certainly not in a high-crime area - after reportedly having a row with her husband.  Besides that, the police seem to be treating the case as a high profile despite the lack of evidence that it qualifies (at least not yet). 

She's thwarted from the start, though, by change-ups in her newsroom; without warning, she's demoted from her top spot, and she's told her evening news anchor will be replaced, ostensibly in an attempt to boost ratings. Worse, the jobs of other colleagues she's used to working with and for whom she has the utmost respect are being threatened. If she ignores her boss's instruction and goes off on her own to dig up the story behind the missing woman, then, it's possible she'll put not only her job, but those of her good friends on the chopping block.

But investigate she does, and that puts her back in touch with old flame Michael Ledger, a detective with whom she had a fling not all that long ago. He dumped her, in fact, then got married, had a couple of kids and divorced, in that order. Back then, Virginia trusted him totally; but based on where the trail is leading now - through the sometimes shadowy halls of Washington, D.C., politics, business and law enforcement  - she isn't so sure that's a good plan. 

Brick walls spring up at just about every turn as Virginia and her team search for cooperative witnesses and second sources and honor  "off-the-record" agreements - all hallmarks of responsible journalism - to bring the truth to the viewing public (alternative facts? Let's not even go there). Getting an inside look at that process in and of itself makes this book a winner in my book (and it didn't hurt that for some inexplicable reason I envisioned Holly Hunter every time Virginia appeared). 

Bottom line? My thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Highly recommended!

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac (Atria/37 Ink, March 2017); 320 pp.

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