The first installment of Greyson’s (And Then She Was Gone, 2016, etc.) Detective Jack Stratton series features its protagonist in his pre-detective days, as a cop searching for his missing foster sister.
Officer Jack Stratton of the Fairfield Police hardly bats an eye when he comes home to find his on-again, off-again girlfriend Gina angrily leaving his apartment, as it’s a relatively common occurrence. But he’s definitely surprised to see another young woman there who seems very familiar. She goes by the nickname “Replacement”—Jack doesn’t immediately recall her real name—and she’d lived with his foster family well after he’d moved out. He hasn’t seen that family in years, as he blames himself for his foster brother Chandler’s death when they were both serving in Iraq. But Replacement has sought out Jack at the behest of their foster mom, whom they call Aunt Haddie; she wants Jack’s help in finding Michelle, Chandler’s biological sister, who inexplicably vanished a couple of weeks before. Police haven’t taken Michelle’s disappearance seriously, as it seems as if Michelle simply transferred to another college without telling her family. Jack and Replacement look into it, speaking to Michelle’s roommate and her colleagues at the psychology center, where she works part-time as a condition of her scholarship. But when they locate Michelle’s damaged car in an auto yard, things start to get suspicious. The investigation soon leads into dangerous territory as Jack and Replacement link Michelle’s disappearance to other missing people and a few dubious individuals, including drug dealers. The two sleuths are undoubtedly putting someone on edge, as both ultimately become targets.
Although he’s still just a uniform cop, Jack displays the traits of a seasoned detective; for example, the sheriff had previously booted him to 90 days of late-night traffic detail for sticking his nose in someone else’s case. Jack’s investigation unfolds organically as he goes to wherever the latest piece of evidence takes him (such as a witness who saw kids around Michelle’s car). His interrogations range from breezy conversations with people he knows to occasional threats toward strangers. Greyson’s depictions of the interactions between Jack and Replacement are also worthwhile; although her myriad complaints are often trivial, they’re generally amusing, as when she shows her obvious distaste for Jack’s ringtone. There are also some quite profound moments, as when Replacement expresses anger at Jack for abandoning his family, while Jack still feels the effects of his birth mother leaving him when he was only 7. Replacement also proves to be much more than a sidekick; indeed, her hacking skills are such a benefit that it’s conceivable that she could have worked the case alone. The mostly straightforward prose is at its best when its tone is tongue-in-cheek, as when Jack’s Chevy Impala is described as having “way too many miles on it. Jack and the car were twins in that regard, but the Impala seemed to be running better than him right now.”
A grand mystery that effectively introduces its series character.