Quinn (Arf, 2016, etc.) is known for caninecentric comic mysteries, but here the dog takes a supporting role as Afghanistan veteran LeAnne Hogan, marred by a disfiguring injury and PTSD, finds purpose after a close friend’s death.
A talented high school athlete, LeAnne rejects West Point after her father’s suicide. Instead, she enlists as an Army private and then serves multiple Iraq and Afghanistan tours. As co-leader of a Cultural Support Team (a unit of combat-capable female soldiers who accompany Special Ops forces to gather intelligence), LeAnne lost her right eye, leaving her with a terribly scarred face and severe PTSD. Well-written flashbacks chronicle the CST soldiers in-country and introduce an Afghan interpreter nicknamed Katie, whom LeAnne considers a kindred soul and who ends up changing her life. In the novel's present day, LeAnne is a wounded warrior in a U.S. military hospital, where she's become an intense, isolated woman prone to bouts of anger and despair. Her character changes markedly as she tries to understand her hero father’s apparent suicide and resolves to mend her contentious relationship with her mother. Then LeAnne’s stumbling recovery goes off-rail after her hospital roommate, Marci, dies suddenly. LeAnne impulsively leaves the hospital, a defiant escape that's perfectly detailed by Quinn. In a journey ripe with symbolism, LeAnne travels west, then follows a compulsion to head to Washington and connect with Marci’s daughter. Soon after she encounters a huge black dog at a dramatic moment, she learns that the child is mysteriously missing. Quinn realistically depicts the way civilians fail to comprehend a warrior’s mindset. The despondency of PTSD portrayed with such brutal intensity—LeAnne’s guarded, prickly, and cynical persona cracks but never fully opens—makes for emotionally difficult reading.
There's a minor road-trip thread, and a mystery too, but this is primarily a psychological drama driven by a lonely struggle to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.