Pretty Dead (Elise Sandburg #3), by Anne Frasier

Three stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Anne Frasier, Amazon Publishing, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Without having read Frasier’s previous two novels in the series, I hoped to jump into the mix with little cause for concern. While not completely lost, I found myself wishing I had brushed up on my Elise Sandburg beforehand. Sandburg is working as the Head of Homicide in the quaint city of Savannah. After two recent murders of prostitutes, Sandburg and former FBI profiler David Gould begin investigating the early stages of a spree.Tailed by a reporter from New York, they must continue their work but remain on edge in this Castle-esque spin on police work. A serial killer on the loose, obscure Latin words on victims, and no concrete clues force Sandburg to grasp at any straw she can. When the mayor’s daughter becomes the latest victim, something has to change, as tensions run high. Two major decisions by the Chief of Police add new actors to the case, irritants for both Gould and Sandburg. After another murder points at a suspect within the force, the killer seems apparent and the manhunt begins. Sandburg and Gould must work together to piece the puzzle together, using the most unlikely of weapons, the newspaper itself. With the killer’s eye set on another victim, close to Sandburg, the race is on to catch the Savannah Killer, or face the ultimate demise. A well-paced novel that seemingly moves the characters forward and keeps the reader turning pages to see how it all plays out.

An author cannot write subsequent novels in a series and spend all their time rehashing past experiences or cases, as they will lose those who have invested time in reading up to this point. However, I find that the best way to snag new readers is to lure them in with just enough breadcrumbs to want to read what has happened, while not ruining any past plots. While I was parachuted into this reading experience, I felt as though I had an improper context of the Sandburg-Gould past relationship tensions, as well as Jackson Sweet’s role in the larger picture. Frasier mentions it all, at length, but perhaps too much so and yet leaves wide holes open. My curiosity was piqued, only to have it rained on when I learned major arcs that likely became key aspects of the plots in the past two books. Add to that, with a focus solely on this book, the flow of the book was decent, though perhaps too much happened to too many people in one single novel. Issues for Sandburg (Sweet) and Gould (Lamont) arrived simultaneously and left the reader juggle the pasts these characters share, the serial killer plot, and some of the dangling threads tossed into the mix just to highlight that the characters have backstories. Add to that, while there was a build-up in action, the killer was, even for me, too obvious from the start. There needs to be some question, some query, unless the author seeks to play parallel storylines from the get-go; have the police chase the killer in certain chapters and the killer do their work in their own chapters, allowing for the hunt from A to Z. Frasier has a good handle on the craft and without having read the past two novels, I cannot comment on this being an anomaly or par for the course, but it was somewhat troubling. However, the ideas are there and delivery is strong, with good room for growth.

Kudos, Madam Frasier for this novel. While I can be a little harsh, I do hope you garner more fans and advance the series in effective ways over the next while.