~ About the Book ~
Evie Blackwell’s reputation as a top investigator for the Illinois State Police has landed her an appointment to the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force. This elite investigative team is launched with plenty of public fanfare. The governor has made this initiative a high priority, so they will have to produce results–and quickly.
Evie and her new partner, David Marshal, are assigned to a pair of unrelated cases in suburban Chicago, and while both involve persons now missing for several years, the cases couldn’t be more different. While Evie opens old wounds in a close-knit neighborhood to find a missing college student, David searches for a private investigator working for a high-powered client.
With a deep conviction that “justice for all” truly matters, Evie and David are unrelenting in their search for the truth. But Evie must also find answers to the questions that lie just beneath the surface in her personal life.
~ Excerpt ~
Ann handed over her notebook as they met again at a diner. “My faith in humanity is rising. Nearly everyone who was around when Jenna disappeared remembers her, the search, the speculation about what happened.” The two found a table and ordered coffee.
“I’m hearing the same,” Evie said, skimming through Ann’s notes while Ann read through hers. “One thing I hadn’t considered: Jenna’s disappearance raised the fear level of an entire college campus. Girls didn’t walk alone, boyfriends saw them safely inside and looked around their apartments, volunteer patrols were out with flashlights and phones to challenge any guy who was loitering. Whoever did this, if he was part of campus life, he was getting turned on by the fear. ‘Look what I did. I’m responsible for all this. Everyone is talking about what I did.'”
“Creating fear in others can be a powerful fix, like a drug addict’s high,” Ann agreed, taking her first sip of the coffee. “It’s an emotion that needs to be fed. Give it a year, the fear around campus subsides, he has to do something else to get it back.”
“I’ve got a lot of data coming in on what happened in the years after Jenna’s disappearance,” Evie said. “If he was here, he probably tried to relight that fear, to experience it again. Something should turn up about this guy acting out again.”
“How deep are your lists of names?”
“By end of the day, with the inquiries made, I’ll have a large pool to fish in. The first target will be names appearing on multiple lists—a music major with a rape allegation would certainly get my attention. I’d like to give the researchers the top few dozen names by the end of the day so they can generate deeper histories over the weekend.”
“I can give you some help on that data analysis.”
“I was hoping you’d offer. It’s gladly accepted.”
As Evie drank her coffee and reviewed Ann’s notes, she glanced over to her friend reviewing her own notes to ask, “Are you beginning to see a pattern here? The rumor mill has settled on about half a dozen theories, and we’re getting the same rumors with variations on a theme, depending on which supposition the individual consider the most likely.”
Ann held Evie’s notebook. “It’s crowd-sourcing crime solving, the collective wisdom of a community on what happened to Jenna Greenhill. You have to admit, they’re pretty good. They’ve nailed down the most likely theories on your master list.”
“I find it interesting that the possibility she’s alive still runs this hot.”
“The need for hope,” Ann replied. “To not allow for her to be alive moves the case from being to depressing to being just black.”
Ann closed the notebook and drank her coffee. “She’s dead, Evie. This isn’t another Shannon Bliss with someone taking her for a reason. To be alive after nine years, you need a reason. Jenna wasn’t the prettiest, the youngest, the most outgoing. She was vulnerable, she got grabbed, but I doubt this kidnapping lasted more than a few hours at most.”
It helped hearing another cop confirm what she also had concluded. This was a murder investigation without a body. Evie swapped back notebooks with Ann. “I hope her body isn’t found in this neighborhood. I don’t want to end the mystery by creating another memorial location residents have to pass every day.”
“I sincerely hope it doesn’t unfold that way either.”
~ Review ~
If you enjoy police procedurals, Dee Henderson’s Evie Blackwell series has some of the most detailed investigations I’ve read. As with the first novel in this series, this is more mystery than suspense, but the intellectual challenge involved in solving these cases made for fascinating reading. Short of actually doing the detective work yourself, you couldn’t get a much more realistic experience.
That being said, there’s a point at which realism becomes mundane in a novel, and I found myself reaching this point several times in this book. There’s lots of introspection and internal dialogue as Evie thinks things through. Discussions about what Evie and David will order in for a meal, who’s doing what and meeting whom when, and other such trivial matters are included in full, right along with extensive brainstorming sessions, talking through theories and ideas, and planning what their next step will be. It’s all seamlessly interwoven, completely natural, and interesting to a point, but it would have benefited from being trimmed down in the editing process. As it was, I inevitably found myself skimming these parts, wanting the story to get moving again.
I think this story also suffered a bit due to a lack of scene-by-scene tension. Despite the intellectual challenge these cold-cases presented and the unresolved state of both Evie’s and David’s romantic relationships (more on that in a moment), many individual scenes and conversations lacked the kind of internal tension that keeps a book’s pulse ticking. I think that’s largely due to the characters themselves. They all approach and respond to things with a well-regulated evenness of temper. They’re always polite, considerate, understanding, and in perfect control of themselves. It’s a nice idea, and probably something to aspire to, but on the page it becomes ho-hum, especially if there’s nothing else happening to drive the story forward at that point.
In terms of the romance, both Evie and David are already in long-term relationships at the opening of the novel, and there is no suggestion that this will change, but both are working through some things that are preventing them from taking that final step to marriage. David’s story, in particular, is an interesting one, and although he isn’t a POV character in this novel (except for a scene or two at the end), I’ll be interested to see how his story develops. However, once again, a lot of the romantic tension is mitigated by the extremely rational (as opposed to emotional) way they each approach their situations.
To sum up, this is a unique series for those who enjoy the challenge of solving the unsolvable with a bit (or a lot) of old-fashioned detection and deduction. If you don’t mind the slower pacing, it makes for a good read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Series: #2 Evie Blackwell Cold Cases
Release date: 2 May 2017
Publisher: Bethany House
~ Previous Books in Series ~
Read my review for Traces of Guilt.
~ About the Author ~
Dee Henderson is the author of 14 best-selling novels, including the acclaimed O’Malley series and the Uncommon Heroes series. As a leader in the inspirational romantic suspense category, her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, including the RWA’s RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, the Holt Medallion, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Golden Quill. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois and is active online.