In Neal’s (Bone Hook, 2015, etc.) latest thriller, Hawaiian cop Sgt. Lei Texeira returns to find the killer of a child, while her husband, Lt. Michael Stevens, struggles to escape captivity in Central America.
Lei’s the type of woman who’d go alone to save her husband when she learns probable terrorists kidnapped Michael during his overseas stint training military troops. But Capt. Cherry Joy Omura can’t spare Lei, opting to immerse her in a case—a child’s skull washing ashore in Hana. Simply trying to locate where a local woman discovered the skull, however, quickly intensifies Lei’s investigation. She stumbles onto a marijuana farm, where a man uses children for slave labor and ensures they’re armed and willing to kill. Michael, meanwhile, is imprisoned in a pit with several others working for Security Solutions. The captors separate Michael when he gets sick, and he discovers their plans: if the company doesn’t pay a ransom soon, they’ll start killing the abductees. He manages to escape and free fellow contractors, but now the group must brave a largely unfamiliar jungle with the hopes of making it safely to Nicaragua. While Michael and the rest face crocodiles and venomous snakes, Lei dodges bullets and hunts a dangerous man who may have murdered a child. There’s not much mystery in the novel—Lei’s investigation essentially unravels on its own—but plenty of action and suspense. Neal’s writing is tenacious, highlighted by her masterly crosscutting of two exhilarating scenes: Michael’s group running through the Honduran forest and Lei fleeing armed men in the Maui jungle. Dramatic repercussions are equally solid, including Lei being upset that Michael told her his deployment date only the day before he left. Neal knows how to tease her previous novels with panache, like “that other trip,” Lei’s personal mission targeting an enemy on the Big Island, resulting in an apparently less than cheery outcome. The story finally reveals the kidnappers’ identities in the midst of a twist ending. It’s an unquestionably startling turn, but while Neal keeps it sensible, the climax isn’t as strong as its lead-up and will likely disappoint some readers.
Persistently riveting; should pique interest in the series’ follow-up—and the preceding 10.