In this energetic third book in the Astrology Mystery series, the story centers on missing children and an illegal adoption ring.
The latest installment reunites ambitious, dedicated, motorcycle-riding probation officer Christian Vargas with her “charismatic Chicano” partner, Daniel O’Callahan, both hard on the trail of nefarious human traffickers responsible for three separate child abduction cases. Vargas, ignoring the warnings of the department head who vouched for her on a former tricky case, jumps (secretly) at the chance to participate in yet another investigation. She sees it as part of an effort to curb crime in a community battered by a string of senseless gang murders. Complicating matters is the fact that Daniel still carries a torch for Vargas, though their previous dalliance is far from her mind these days. She’s busy contemplating the varying aspects of the case, confiding in her therapist, Sophia, and wading through disappearance databases. Vargas’ uncanny powers of intuition, and her learned knack for “offender profiling” and immersive sleuthing, bring her and Daniel face to face with a group of illegal adoption agents from a thriving, violent 10-year-old network of child abductors. Moments of levity arise from scenes involving their inquisitive visit to a backwoods redneck enclave searching for clues and a humorous marriage-of-convenience ceremony that’s necessary to infiltrate the ring. Otherwise it’s business as usual as the challenges continue to mount for the partners, whether they’re rushing to make a collar before the case cools off or battling bureaucratic red tape amid a re-election season. Meanwhile, pregnant, troubled teenager Karma Caligan appeals to Vargas, her probation officer, for a place to stay until she delivers but ends up way over her head. Between Vargas resisting the eager advancements of her boss and the exciting and erotic developments in her and Daniel’s relationship, interpersonal entanglements threaten to overshadow the mystery itself. And indeed, bittersweet conclusion aside, O’Rorke (The Killer of Cancer Rising, 2015, etc.) drags out the mystery for a bit longer than necessary. Yet with a 97 percent conviction rate, Vargas remains an investigator to be reckoned with in this superbly rousing tale. Series fans: a fourth installment is exclusively teased at the book’s conclusion.
More cleverly plotted suspense reliably anchored by a dogged heroine with verve to spare.