A serial killer targets girls as a woman searches relentlessly for her long-lost daughter in this novel.
Miranda Steele is as tough as her name. She can hold her own in a hot pepper–eating contest, swear like a stevedore, and dispatch bar creeps with some well-placed, high-heeled stomps and kicks. In short, as someone observes, “Girl’s a real scrapper.” But it was not always thus. Thirteen years earlier, she was the verbally and physically abused wife of a policeman who one night literally threw her out into the snow, but not before giving up their infant daughter for adoption. #MeToo? She’s more like #NoMore. Since then, she has toughened up, moved from city to city searching for her daughter, and supported herself by welding girders on a New York skyscraper, harvesting crab on a Maine fishing boat, and performing various jobs on a Texas oil rig. Now working construction in Pittsburgh, she is contacted by a volunteer with an adoption reunion agency who has a solid lead on her daughter’s whereabouts. She heads to Atlanta’s tony Buckhead community, where she meets wealthy and handsome Wade Parker, “Atlanta’s ace detective” and “the town’s most eligible 44-year-old bachelor.” Initial distrust transforms into a partnership as they investigate the murder of a local 13-year-old girl with whom Parker has a family connection. Miranda worries that the victim could be her daughter. This series launch is an appealing mashup of gritty serial killer thriller and romance novel (“ ‘Don’t tempt me, Miranda.’ She gazed into those knowing, deep gray eyes. ‘Why not?’ she murmured. ‘You’ve been tempting me since the first night I saw you’ ”). Lanier (Mind Bender, 2017, etc.) has created an empowered and formidable heroine. But her writing is as subtle as one of those hot peppers Miranda crunches. “I made myself strong,” Miranda defiantly tells Parker at one point. “I vowed to myself that no one would ever hurt me like that again. Never….Do you hear me? Never.” In comedy, there is a rule of three. There should be a rule of two for crime fiction. “A woman can never make herself too tough or too strong” gets the job done. Adding “or too street smart” is overkill.
A fitfully effective but readable start to a mystery series.