Her Final Breath (Tracy Crosswhite #2), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

Dugoni brings Detective Tracy Crosswhite back for another adventure on the streets of Seattle. After a hiatus from the big city, Crosswhite is back with her team and ready to solve another homicide. While at the shooting range, someone leaves a noose dangling from a tree, perhaps a sign related to a case she’d been working that was mothballed by her Captain and nemesis, Johnny Nolasco. Crosswhite picks up a case of an adult dancer whose body was found in a seedy motel room, strangled with a noose from an indeterminate piece of rope. All the more chilling is that the victim is hog-tied leaving the noose to tighten only when her legs drop. While poking around for clues, Crosswhite discovers a case with a similar MO from a decade ago, but sporting two distinct problems: a man has confessed to the crime and it was a case handled by Nolasco. After Crosswhite convinces her boyfriend, lawyer Dan O’Leary, to begin investigating the facts of this case, holes in the original investigation begin to surface, with an eyewitness unsure of what she saw. Crosswhite takes the lead on a task force only when more dancers turn up killed by the same method, but she cannot shake the fact that Dan has uncovered some damning evidence, where an innocent man might be serving time. Crosswhite keeps his investigation under the radar and turns to DNA in her current cases, hoping to determine if there is anything the killer is leaving behind. The coil of rope proves fruitful and a potential suspect brought in for interrogation. Things do not pan out as Crosswhite might have hoped and she is forced to release him. When witnesses from a decade ago begin asking questions about the covert investigation, Crosswhite’s antics are revealed and she is sent packing, left to the doldrums of administrative work while Nolasco takes the lead. Refusing to look at evidence that falls in the grey area, Nolasco zeroes in on the apparent killer and brings the spotlight on himself as he seeks to make an arrest. With Crosswhite in the apparent killer’s crosshairs, a violent event brings the case to a climax, with Nolasco basking in his role as leader. However, nothing is quite as easy as it seems, forcing Crosswhite to keep all avenues open to determine if the true killer’s been revealed. A wonderfully fast-paced novel with twists at every turn, sure to entertain readers.

Dugoni has a wonderful way of telling stories that lures the reader in from the early chapters. His mix of quick narrative and realistic dialogue leaves the reader feeling as though this case is not only pulled from the headlines, but has a degree of reality. With numerous cliffhangers and twists that keep the reader from predicting too much, Dugoni shows how he is able to craft a superior novel. While there have only been two novels and two short stories, the reader’s connection to Tracy Crosswhite seems long-standing and intimate on many levels. This is a telltale sign of a wonderful series, which has time to grow and will surely garner scores of followers as more writing becomes available. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next instalment, to see where Crosswhite takes things.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni. You have surpassed my expectations with this and I hope you have much more to come to satisfy my Crosswhite addiction.