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by Sara Driscoll
Kensington, November 2019
304 pages
ISBN: 1496722477

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her amazing K-9 partner Hawk are back for the fourth installment of their nice mystery series. Author Sara Driscoll is articulate and capable, pushing forward Meg's life and the lives of those she cares most about: her sister Cara, Hawk (of course), her lover, Fire Department Lt. Todd Webb, and Cara's love interest Clay McCord, a gifted investigative reporter for one of the large newspapers. There are also members of Meg's team which vary depending upon FBI assignments and crises which come up suddenly and her boss, whose understanding of the skills garnered by the Special Agents of the K-9 in search and rescue operations and crime solutions is both wise and compassionate.

This novel opens with Meg and Hawk joining a group led by Firefighter Chuck Smaill into the world of "urbexing." Those who belong to this world work very hard seeking out old and abandoned buildings, often those of huge closed factories, hospitals, or schools that are steadily deteriorating as Nature reclaims them. In a sense, these "urbexers" embrace the history of these sites, learning an enormous amount about what they did and how they functioned. In another sense, these urbexers are explorers addicted to the unknown and the challenges of exploring structures in varying conditions of collapse which present all the excitement and danger they want. Additionally, these explorers often tag the buildings at the furthest extent they've been able to penetrate them a sort of graffiti certainly, but meant mostly as a gesture saying, "I was here."

Meg and Hawk are along because of the obvious opportunity to use the experience to add to their skills in the field without being on an assignment. There is an acknowledgment that urbexing involves trespassing but that is simply glossed over. The ends clearly justify the means here.

Sadly, the site the long-abandoned Massaponax Insane Asylum, established soon after the Civil War and closed around 2003 not only hones Meg's and Hawk's abilities but results in Hawk's discovery of the body of an elderly woman in a place in the building that she could not have gotten into on her own and from which, were she alive, she could not have escaped. Meg recognizes the obvious signs of crime and quickly afterwards learns of two other similar deaths of frail and elderly people somehow isolated or abandoned in derelict buildings. She cannot link the three deaths but begins pushing her team and her supportive friends (who have been allowed to assist her in the past) to see what they can find. It appears that there have been over twenty unexplained deaths up and down the Eastern seaboard over the last few years.

There is an odd lurch in the story when an elderly man disappears while walking his dog he's missing, but without any specific evidence of criminal activity, the FBI moves in and begins an investigation. From that point, the mystery unfolds with the usual masterful handling of this author this is a compelling plot line.

In the end, the bad guy dies rather horribly and the team and friends go home to recover and regain their equilibrium for whatever next case they will be assigned to. There is no explanation for the way in which the bad guy killed his victims it is inordinately difficult and time-consuming. His motive, however, is spot on.

I like this series and have praised earlier installments in reviews. This time, the story is compelling but some of the details do not bear much examination.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, November 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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