Burke (Long Gone, 2011, etc.) resurrects Ellie Hatcher, an NYPD homicide detective who followed in her father’s footsteps.
Ellie’s father’s death, which police claimed was at his own hand, makes the callout to a young girl’s suicide even more difficult for Ellie. The girl’s grieving mom is a socialite and the wife of a mover and shaker in the music industry, and she’s pulled strings to get the homicide division on her daughter’s case. Teenager Julia Whitmire, privileged and spoiled but left on her own by her self-involved parents, was found dead of a combination of drugs, alcohol and wrist-slashing in the tub of her bathroom. Everyone, from the EMTs on the scene to the medical examiner who responds to Ellie, writes it off as a clear-cut suicide. Julia even left a note that is undisputedly in her own hand. However, pressure from the bigwigs sends the increasingly impatient Ellie and her partner, Rogan, back to the crime scene to work the case as a murder. In the course of their investigation, Ellie and Rogan meet a motley group of street kids, the family of Julia’s best friend, Ramona, and stumble onto a blog written by Ramona’s mom, Adrienne, that centers around her own sexual abuse while she was a child. Burke keeps it real by having Ellie unconvinced that Julia’s death was anything but a suicide, but her stubborn refusal to envision that the girl was murdered hinders, rather than helps, the probe. Ellie also suffers personal issues in that her boyfriend, an assistant district attorney, wants a little more out of the relationship, and Ellie remains afraid to take that step. In Ellie, Burke has built a likable, flawed heroine trying to leave the things that have haunted her behind and not succeeding very well. Burke’s prose falls into an easy, natural rhythm when she enters Ellie Hatcher’s world, and her plotting rarely disappoints.
A smooth, compelling read that is proof positive that Burke continues to mature as a writer; this entry in the Ellie Hatcher series sings.