New York, 2010-ish. A woman runs down the street in the pouring rain and stops at a payphone to make a 911 call. She tells them a murder has been committed. A man has been shot in the luxury penthouse that belongs to a wealthy investor. The police try to trace the call but the woman is long gone by the time they reach the pay phone. Months later, college student Megan Gunther is brutally slain after being stalked online. Detective Ellie Hatcher is convinced the cases are somehow connected. But how?
That’s the thing: they are connected, of course, but it never really becomes clear why Ellie thinks they are. It’s incredibly weird, because this keeps happening: Ellie and her partner JJ Rogan either leap to conclusions or miss completely obvious deductions. That’s a shame, because I like the characters and the prose and the plot’s not half bad either. It’s like a donut: it’s tasty and dressed up with good stuff, but you can’t really ignore the gaping hole in the middle. At one point, they are convinced that a judge only tangentially connected to the case is corrupt; at another, it takes them ages to come to the conclusion that maybe Megan’s roommate, who was also attacked, might be involved somehow. The cyberstalking plot makes no sense whatsoever. And because this is a novel, the author can do what she wants and the loose strands are, of course, connected, which means most of the detectives’ random spitballing turns out to be true, but it’s all somewhat implausible.
It’s a shame because a good murder mystery should at least be solidly constructed. All the other prerequisites are there for a gripping thriller. There’s a soothing undercurrent through the book in the idea that ultimately, people are decent and do things out of love. And I did like Ellie as a protagonist; I’ll probably give Burke another go (if only because she has a cool name) if only just to see if the other books are as haphazardly constructed as this one, but this one was a bit of a letdown. It could have been so good and instead, it’s halfway between frustrating and ‘just okay’.
Also, I want a donut now.