Detectives struggle to solve the mystery of a missing girl in this fresh, contemporary take on the police procedural.
Rookie Donna Bradley, a detective who struggles with self-consciousness, lands her first big case when adolescent Amber Zajac goes missing. Bradley’s teamed with Tony di Giorgio, a veteran from another jurisdiction, and soon learns the pitfalls and pleasures of a major investigation under the glare of intense media scrutiny. The teenage witnesses are reluctant to talk, the victim’s family is oddly secretive, and the jurisdictional squabbles are a mess—but Bradley’s unexpected romance with a fellow police officer helps her put things in perspective. However, she can’t help but be upset by a gruesome discovery that changes the entire course of the investigation, and when the case suddenly intersects with another, Bradley is forced to make a difficult choice. Debut author Lee offers a crime novel with enough procedural details to feel authentic and enough diverse plotlines to feel new. By portraying Bradley as a woman unsure of her own attractiveness, Lee frees the character from cop-novel caricature; she’s neither a masculinized automaton nor a sexy siren, but a tough, competent professional who’s wholly, undeniably feminine. Other characters also transcend genre stereotypes, as the author is expert at providing tiny details that manage to capture an entire persona. Vignettes of Amber’s young life and of a suspect’s personal tragedy meld seamlessly into the main narrative, and Lee’s prose is elegant and evocative throughout; in one particularly memorable phrase, the author writes of adolescents: “They lie like they French kiss—to see how it feels in the mouth.” The pacing is swift and sure, with plot twists that keep readers’ interest without sacrificing credibility, and the momentum builds inexorably to an exciting, emotionally satisfying conclusion.
A fun, sophisticated debut mystery.