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by D. H. Dublin
Berkley, September 2006
320 pages
ISBN: 0425212394

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Two sorority girls are found gruesomely dead in their room and the university and town are eager to hush it up as an accidental drug overdose. But Madison Cross, who has much to prove in her first assignment for the Philadelphia Police Department Crime Scene Unit doesn't think that it's quite that simple.

Ashley and Beth must have died within minutes of each other before help could be called, which is unusual. Then there's the question of when those deaths took place -- each of the differing tests gives a drastically different answer. When yet another girl from the sorority dies in a violent accident, Madison becomes even more convinced that there's a bigger story. But can she convince anyone else?

BODY TRACE is a solid procedural, but is regrettably flawed by its inability to rise above cliches. All the stock characters parade by following their characteristic rut. The impulsive newbie whose persistence will impress and annoy her supervisors. The sexist Good Old Boy cop who will eventually give grudging admiration. The alcoholic bum who used to be a good cop. The sympathetic supervisor. The naughty sorority girls. The snobbish trust fund boy. The shallow local politicians, and so on.

Many of the newer CSI-inspired cliches also make an appearance. Madison does far more legwork than a CSU technician would actually do. She also apparently single-handedly runs the forensics department, doing the tests that would ordinarily take a full team to run. A little bit of background on the science of forensics is given as filler between bouts of descriptions of Madison's interviews, evidence gathering, and stakeouts.

In other words, this book is all about Madison single-handedly saving the day. For what it is, it works -- but what it is a paint-by-numbers hard-boiled detective story with a few test tubes thrown in and with nothing unique to recommend it.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, July 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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