A determined, empowered detective looking into two intense cases fuels this suspense thriller debut.
Magnetically drawn to police work from a young age because she “loved to discover secrets,” Santa Fe, New Mexico, officer Michelle Velasquez will find her mettle tested when she is assigned a cold case on top of a sexual assault investigation. The current case involves the rape of Maria Acevedo, a new hire at Jones Financial who was violently molested by an executive who threatened retaliation if she reported the event. Bent on avenging Acevedo’s attack, Velasquez digs deep into the case, but complicating matters is the reappearance of Richard Stanberry III, an arrogant, judgmental, and irritatingly persistent old friend from her past intent on worming his way back into her life if only to convince her that police work is too “degrading” for her. Worse still is an additional assignment of a 3-decade-old cold case involving the murder of Susie Murphy, who was Stanberry’s girlfriend and a friend of Velasquez’s at the time she was killed. This task proves to be just as complex as the rape investigation, as Velasquez diligently sifts through 30 years of history to expose a rising tide of prime suspects like Stanberry. Lending the book a well-rounded sense of development, Reichwein’s mystery is effectively narrated by a chorus of characters, ranging from Susie’s mother to the murder victim’s psychotic stalker/mailman and her college friend Cassie. They all provide a compelling backstory for the cold case, which ends up becoming the novel’s primary focus. Though readers will get intimately familiar with all of the players in this well-honed whodunit, it will be tough, resilient, seasoned detective Velasquez who remains the most solid character and who has enough brio to anchor the story through its rousing conclusion. There are some rough patches of awkward exposition and clunky dialogue, and the female equality message, while provocative and certainly timely, tends to be overly repetitive and heavy-handed. But overall, the brisk plot and compelling characterization more than make up for these narrative quibbles.
A fiery, absorbing, impressive crime fiction procedural sure to shake up fans of the genre and introduce readers to a new author with great potential.