Lara Jones isn’t your typical, hard-bitten FBI investigator. In fact, she’s unusually vulnerable for a veteran of the specialist behavioural science unit, who used to spend her time profiling the worst of America’s criminals. We meet her at a troubling time in her life: starting a new job in a local field office, trying to figure out if she wants to commit to a serious relationship – and grieving the loss of her parents who seemingly abandoned her not so very long ago.
Lara barely has time to meet her colleagues before she’s tasked with a sensitive investigation; kid gloves required to handle a local bigwig with a missing wife. Lara starts the search and almost immediately uncovers curious secrets which suggest that both parties had something to hide. Then the bizarre threatening letters start to arrive – indicating that his is something much more sinister than a simple missing persons case. On top of all that, is it only a coincidence that a handsome new man has entered Lara’s life?
The resulting investigation is enjoyably convoluted, with chilling communications from the calculating killer. There’s plenty of personality and personal development to offset the darker side of the story – and the author steers clear of gory details or explicit violence. The drama is all in the unfolding mystery, and in figuring out who Lara can trust as she untangles the threads of deception.
Some of the forensic and investigative aspects feel a little lightweight, so don’t expect dense, accurate detail about managing crime scenes or writing daily reports. I didn’t find it entirely credible that FBI agents would tidy up a crime scene after the unsub had invaded one of their homes – without even reporting it to the office – and then settledown for a pizza evening…
Assuming that this is a debut novel from an indie author, however, She’s As Good As Dead is a credible effort which demonstrates lots of promise for the future. It’s accessible, easy reading which doesn’t get bogged down or take unnecessary detours. The author has a knack for solid storytelling and creating memorable characters – although I would’ve preferred Lara to be a little more self-sufficient, and not rely on a big, strong fella to repeatedly come to her rescue!
If you enjoy the Special Crimes Unit series by Kay Hooper then give this a whirl; it doesn’t have any of the psi aspects of Hooper’s books but is definitely similar in tone and feel. This is a story about personal relationships where Lara’s close friends are both her source of strength and her ultimate vulnerability. If the investigative detail is a little skimpy and occasionally stretches credibility then Lara’s fondness for pizza – and her awkwardness in high-falutin’ restaurants – feel completely grounded in reality.
Top marks for a striking cover; it’s eye-catching and entirely relevant to the story.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
SHE’S AS GOOD AS DEAD by DM Briers is available at Amazon
Looking for more gripping crime fiction with killer women taking centre stage?