Count to Three, by T.R. Ragan

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, T.R. Ragan, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Seeking something with a little more chill to it, I turned to the latest publication by T.R. Ragan. In a story that tells of two kidnapped children over a span of time, the reader in thrust into the middle of the action, where the lead investigator has the memory of her own daughter’s disappearance to fuel her actions. With confusing leads that go nowhere and two storylines that leave the reader to wonder what’s really going on, Ragan spins a tale of deception and horror, while two girls remain missing, years apart. A gripping story that kept me turning pages and left me wanting more!

Dani Callahan had always wanted a child, but was faced with many roadblocks along the way. It was only through intense fertility treatment that she and her husband, Matthew, were blessed with little Tinsley. While Dani loved her daughter, she knew that there would come a time when she would have to let her earn some independence. On her first day of kindergarten, five-year-old Tinsley disappeared without a trace by the time Dani arrived to collect her. The teacher was sure Dani, or someone looking like her, had picked the little one up. Thus began the horror of Dani’s life.

Fast forward five years and Dani is now divorced and has earned her license as a private investigator. Tinsley is still nowhere to be found, but Dani will not give up hope. Working with a new assistant, Quinn, Dani takes on the case of a missing teenager who up and disappeared as well. While some are sure she ran away from home, Dani and Quinn have other ideas. A young boy says he saw Ali Cross being stuffed into the back of a van, though the details are somewhat vague.

While Dani and Quinn do all they can to find Ali, they are worried as the only evidence comes from this young boy, who is troubled in his own right. To offset the search, Dani thrusts herself back into the search for Tinsley, which reveals a few leads. Could this be the break in the case that Dani needs?

All the while, Ali Cross is being held in town by a man who has odd ideas of what will come of their cohabitation. He offers little things to Ali, but there is no doubt that she is his captive and, should he have his way, will be the love of his life. As Ali hopes to be found, Dani and Quinn take a dive deep into a sadistic man’s life, wondering what they will find. With Tinsley still missing, could the two cases intersect in some way? T.R. Ragan tells a wonderfully dark story that is sure to captivate many.

I believe I have read some of T.R. Ragan’s work in the past, though will have to look through my massive digital stack of reviews. The writing kept me wanting to learn more and plunge deeper into this mystery. The plot kept me wondering while also begging to be entertained, which occurred repeatedly throughout the process. I will have to find some time to read more of Ragan’s work, as it was just what I needed at this time of year.

Dani Callahan is a wonderfully complex protagonist. Her backstory is primarily fixated on the loss of her daughter, though there are moments when we see the struggles she had conceiving and the importance of this little one. In the present, Dani is forced to juggle her own feelings with those of trying to find a new missing girl and how that must weigh on the emotions of the family. There appear to be the seeds of a possible series here and I am happy to keep my eyes open to see what transpires.

There’s something about a thriller that pulls me in most of the time. I love the chills that run up my spine as I visualize what’s taking place before me. T.R. Ragan does that repeatedly and kept me eager to learn more. A strong narrative pushed the story forward and left me eager to follow along, particularly as the momentum increased. Strong characters and a complex plot kept me guessing throughout and I marvelled about how it all came together. While private investigator novels are quite common, Ragan adds her own flavouring and has me wanting to come back to see where Dani Callahan takes readers in the near future. The only downside was the end, which did not leave as many threads hanging as I might have liked to pave the way for another sure-fire novel.

Kudos, Madam Ragan, for a great piece of entertainment. I can see why you have achieved such popularity over the years!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: