Ana Grey (North of Montana, 1994), FBI agent, returns to track down a sadistic kidnapper while navigating a stormy relationship with her cop boyfriend; the storylines are interwoven in what is, for the most part, a crackerjack suspenser.
Who snatched 15-year-old Juliana, daughter of a wealthy businessman, from an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, and why is there no ransom demand? Ana, now a Bureau veteran, heads up the investigation. Her boyfriend, Detective Andrew Berringer (they met working a bank robbery), is assigned to the case by the local police department, and Ana outranks him. This will cause problems, adding to the turf wars between Bureau and locals. The first moment of high drama occurs when Juliana returns home, a walking zombie. Tests show the teenager to have been drugged, raped, mutilated and strangled. As the case moves forward and a suspect is identified, Ana’s relationship unravels. Both she and Andrew are from troubled cop families: the grandfather who raised her was a “rage-aholic,” while Andrew’s father killed himself. This is rich soil for future mischief, made more likely by the darkness both brush up against every working day, and Smith describes these fault lines with a quiet passion. Ana had thought her only competition was Andrew’s beloved Harley, and her discovery that he’s is two-timing her; tensions on the job; old wounds reopened from the bank robbery case—all boil over one night at her apartment. Andrew attacks her; she shoots him in self-defense. That she’s later arrested for attempted murder at the precise moment she’s spotted the rape suspect at a stakeout is a tad too coincidental. Much more bothersome is Ana’s self-destructive violation of her bail conditions: credible characterization is sacrificed to Smith’s need to keep her storylines yoked together. The plot twists continue to the end but become ever less believable.
Smith knows how to make the heart race. With better plotting, she’ll be formidable.