A teen killer bent on surgical baby-snatching terrorizes a community in this latest entry in the Astrology Mystery series.
O’Rorke’s (The Capricorn Kidnapping, 2016, etc.) fourth installment finds industrious and charmingly beautiful Washington Tri-Cities juvenile probation officer Christian Vargas in fine form and still brandishing her nearly impeccable conviction track record. Her latest case involves Terry Wilson, a desperate, barren teenager who, after murdering her own mother, now plans to physically extract her former best friend’s unborn baby to raise as her own. Vargas is doubly demonized by a false-positive pregnancy scare and the fact that her detective partner, Daniel O’Callahan, remains indefinitely abroad on an assignment for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Rebounding from this absence, she’s open to the romantic advances of persistent county prosecutor Osmund “Oz” Rellim. After Terry viciously carries out her plan to murder her ex-friend Victoria Villanueva in a secluded park, Vargas (and her trusty police dog, Bear) becomes involved and begins piecing together clues from the grim crime scene. A tip from an unruly, jailed juvenile and Bear’s somewhat implausible discovery of an engraved bracelet in the park fill in some case gaps even as a prideful lead detective counsels her to stop meddling in his investigation. Determined as ever, Vargas puts her affinity for justice and unmatched deductive skills to work nevertheless. As demonstrated in previous volumes in the series, O’Rorke is talented at juggling many plot points at once. In this rousing work, she presents melodramatic courtroom antics, a sociopathic suspect, and leads from witnesses frequenting the park where Victoria was killed with equal amounts of descriptive flair, and she tosses a particularly wild and woolly cast of characters into the fray as well. The reappearance of fugitive Jared Sliver, who holds a firm grudge against both Vargas and Daniel, adds even more intrigue to the unfolding murder probe, while another victim narrowly escapes Terry’s clutches. The showdown fizzles somewhat as a fusion of dogged police work and witchcraft struggles for cohesion, but readers should be delighted when Daniel returns to eclipse the romantic progress Oz was hoping would continue.
Another solid, appealing entry in a series that continues to expand the depth of its characters while keeping the crime-solving suspense at a taut level.