First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, M.E. Browning, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
I can always be guaranteed an intense read when I choose one of M.E. Browning’s novels and this was no exception. Focussing less on the razzle-dazzle of the big city, Browning takes things into a more rural setting and turns her attention on the story, with its strong characters and ever-evolving plot. In Echo Valley, Colorado, Detective Jo Wyatt is still trying to make a name for herself, seeking to step from the shadow her father’s cast. When a young girl goes missing, it’s more than a case, but a trip down a bumpy part of the past. Wyatt is forced to relive a time when she lost a good friend to a jealous accusation and has never been able to settle things. Now, as time passes and the girl is nowhere to be found, it’s a race for answers and truths in a community that almost seems indifferent. The truth is out there, but Wyatt will have to peel back layers of emotion to get to the core of the matter! Another great story that is sure to impress many readers.
In Echo Valley, Colorado, there’s nothing like a fair. The midway, the animals, and even the county competitions stir up intrigue in this small community. However, when young Lena Flores does not show up on Sunday morning, some begin to wonder what’s going on. Her mother, Tilda, is beside herself and cannot get the police out to the house fast enough. Lena’s older sister, Marisa, is sure her sister is only seeking some attention, but this soon turns to worry, when the eleven year-old appears to have simply vanished.
When Detective Jo Wyatt is called to the scene, it’s more than just a job. Wyatt grew up in Echo Valley and has been trying to make a name for herself on the police force, seeking to dodge the reputation her father delivered from a long career on the force. Wyatt’s also got a long history with the Flores parents, dating back to their time in high school when things went horribly wrong. Still, this is a missing child case and Wyatt will do all she can to bring Lena home safely.
Combing through the fields and any video surveillance they can, Wyatt and her partner finger a few possible suspects, including the girl’s father, Lucero. Digging a little deeper, Wyatt tries to piece together what might have happened and who could have wanted to abduct Lena. All the while, she is trying to deal with the politics of a new chief and his plans for Echo Valley.
Working as many leads as she can, including a carny who took an unhealthy interest in Lena, Detective Wyatt tries to make headway in a case that is slipping out of her grasp. With little on which to go and the clock speeding ahead, this could soon morph into a case of a different sort. When a call comes in that some hikers found something along a trail, it sends a frigid jolt down Wyatt’s spine and opens another can of worms best left shelved, as well as a new line of questioning. A strong story and gripping ending shows that M.E. Browning has what it takes to make an impact.
I’ve enjoyed each of the novels M.E. Browning has penned, as they get to the core of the matter in short order and seek to develop a strong story without all the glitz and glamour that some authors feel must decorate their writing. Gritty and heartfelt in equal measure, Browning tells a story and keeps the reader on their toes throughout the experience, trusting the strength of her writing. I powered through this book in short order, as it was that good and found myself connected to the story.
Jo Wyatt is again front and centre in this piece, working through her own issues to serve the community of Echo Valley. She’s got big shoes to fill, something those around her never fail to mention, yet she is always trying to better herself and help those in need. The reader is able to see a glimpse of her personal struggles from a past that had many issues, as well as some growth in her professional career. I am eager to see more of her in the coming years, as she comes across as a no-nonsense cop with a great deal to prove, both to herself and all readers.
Browning develops strong supporting characters throughout the piece, keeping the story moving along without being derailed by too many sub-plots. Things develop effectively with those who complement Detective Wyatt well, as each storyline links together at some point in the larger narrative. Shedding light on both the investigation and an earlier time in Echo Valley, these characters offer something needed to the story without over complicating the delivery.
There’s something about a focused and gritty procedural that gets me every time. M.E. Browning delivers a great deal in this second novel of her new series. With a strong narrative, the story flows well and each subplot finds its place. Gaining momentum through a string of mid-length chapters, the story keeps a good focus and yet develops both plot and character without needing to add unnecessary flourishes. Browning has proven herself yet again and can hold the reader’s attention throughout, using small town settings to hone the basics of the story. I’m eager to see where things will go from here, as this is a series that caught my eye and has so many loose threads yet to be tied off. Let’s hope M.E. Browning feels the same way!
Kudos, Madam Browning, for another great piece. I hope others take notice and find themselves as enthralled as I was throughout.
Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons