A Steep Price (Tracy Crosswhite #6), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

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

Presenting yet another stellar novel in the Tracy Crosswhite series, Robert Dugoni has not disappointed his fans whatsoever. While trying to come to terms with her pregnancy, Detective Tracy Crosswhite has yet to tell anyone, save her husband and partner, Kinsington Rowe. An added stress befalls Crosswhite as she is forced to testify in an important case that has many within Violent Crimes hoping for the best. When she returns to Seattle PD after a day of testifying, Crosswhite discovers a new detective assigned to her team, one who knows more about her than she’s comfortable admitting. Has her pending maternity leave been leaked to her Captain and is this new woman her permanent replacement? Before Crosswhite can get too wrapped up in the drama, she’s alerted to an ‘all hands on deck’ call, where two of her fellow teammates, Del Castigliano and Vic ‘Faz’ Fazzio, are out dealing with a shooting close to a playground. The victim, an advocate for cleaning up the neighbourhood of its drug and prostitution. Might someone be trying to execute their own vigilante justice to silence a do-gooder? Crosswhite is also called down to Missing Persons by a fellow detective, one who has a bad feeling about a case that’s just come up. Kavita Mukherjee, a college graduate from a traditional Indian family has up and gone missing. Her roommate and close friend has called it in, as it is so unlike Kavita to disappear. As Crosswhite takes on the case off the books, she learns that the Mukherjee family’s traditional values go so far as to want Kavita to marry and start a family. With little to go on, Crosswhite turns to a technological angle in order to seek answers. With these two cases gaining steam, the reader is pulled in deep to Dugoni’s masterful storytelling where no one is safe and no topic seems off limits. Brilliantly done and sure to appease series fans, as well as those who love a good America police procedural.

I have long admired Dugoni and his work, which seems so easy to read, no matter its length. He has mastered the art of character development, both looking forward and through well-woven backstories. Tracy Crosswhite may hold the name for the series, but it is not only her struggles with motherhood that finds its way into the narrative, but also the familial issues of another detective, who must face life-altering news. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The adage fits perfectly into this novel, as Dugoni seeks to add depth to the series and its characters, which is readily apparent to series fans. The narrative pushes forward and keeps the reader involved throughout, mixing longer chapters to develop plot lines as well as shorter ones, presenting cliffhangers and parachuting new twists into an already compact story. Dugoni never stops, though the reader need not feel tired or mentally exhausted, but rather astonished that so much of the book as progressed as they are lost in the story. One can only hope that Dugoni will not tie-off the series in the near future, as I know many who have come to love these novels and all that he has to offer.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, as you offer up yet another winner. I love all your ideas and can only hope that the novel plots keep coming to you as you put them down.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In his latest standalone novel, Robert Dugoni shows just how versatile he can be with his writing. His dazzling prose and wonderful ability to convey a story will warm the heart of many readers throughout this powerful novel. Sam Hill was born just outside the Bay Area to two loving parents. As he tells in the early part of the story, the love his parents showed him was unlike anything else in the world. However, Sam was born with a unique feature—red irises, called ocular albinism—which would come to haunt him in the years to come. Though it did not affect his ability to see, Sam was scorned by other young children and faced a significant issue trying to get into the local Catholic school. However, his persistent mother never lost the faith and Sam was soon enrolled alongside the other pupils. His eyes did cause many an issue, helping him develop the moniker, Sam Hell. This did not deter him, though kept the other children from playing alongside him. Friends with Ernie Cantwell, a young black boy—the only in the school—Sam discovered that some children take things to extremes and was severely bullied. As hew grew, Sam and Ernie remained the best of friends, soon adding Michaela ‘Mickie’ Kennedy to their brood. As the story progresses, the reader learns of Sam’s older years and how things developed for him, allowing life lessons and personal epiphanies to shape his way of life. With each part of the book flashing forward to 1989, the reader is able to discover a ‘modern’ narrative and how Sam has used all those lessons to shape what came to be his greatest moments, influenced deeply by his mother. Those fans of Dugoni’s work will marvel at this personal story that has all the ingredients his police procedurals as well. Those seeking a touching story that does not get too sappy will also love this and may develop a love of Robert Dugoni’s writing in general.

I have long loved the writing that Dugoni puts out and find myself completely captivated by his current series set in Seattle. However, it is wonderful to see an author step away from his/her comfort zone and develop an ability to write with an entirely new set of characters and plots. Dugoni does this so effortlessly and pulls the reader in the middle of an emotional story that holds the reader’s attention until the very last phrase. Sam Hill is a wonderful character whose maturation is a fundamental part of the story. His backstory and ongoing character development provides the reader with a rich understanding of the issues that he faces as a child with a physical trait that distinguishes him from others. Secondary characters, such as Ernie and Mickie provide a wonderful flavour for the story and are offset by the more grounded Mr. and Mrs. Hill, who have their own quirks. The vignettes that occur within each part of the larger story provide a wonderful collage of moments that, when sewn together, provided a powerful set of characters that convey a powerful message. I almost could not tell that this was Dugoni, so used to his mystery and police stories, though I am blessed to have seen how detailed he made the entire experience. Dugoni offers up some wonderful themes throughout the piece and arcs them together effectively, touching the reader at just the right moments. The short chapters help push things along and the spiritual nature of the narrative does not create a Christian inculcation, but surely serves as an effective theme in Sam’s life and the reader’s experience with this novel.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for such a powerful book. I can only hope to read more standalone novels of this calibre in the years to come.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Close to Home (Tracy Crosswhite #5), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Adding another explosive novel to the Tracy Crosswhite series, Robert Dugoni has answered the call of his fans to create another superior story. Pulled from the headlines, Dugoni draws on some heart-wrenching topics to add depth to this fifth novel. After young D’Andre Miller is struck and killed in a hit and run while walking home, Tracy Crosswhite and her partner, Kinsington ‘Kins’ Rowe make their way to the scene and begin an investigation. With no vehicle, it might be like finding a needle in a haystack, with a grieving family breathing down their necks. After someone calls in a vehicle matching the evidence left at the scene, Crosswhite and Kins trace it back to a member of the Navy, one Laszlo Trejo. He denies being in Seattle at the time of the crime, though admits his vehicle was stolen overnight. As things are heating up, Trejo makes a call and JAG lawyer Leah Battles appears to lay the groundwork for whatever defence she can formulate. Trejo continues to claim his innocence, even when evidence points in the direction of his being placed at the intersection where Miller was struck. While juggling this agonising case, Crosswhite has her own issues at home on which to focus. With a biological clock that continues to tick, she has agreed to seek some intervention surrounding not being able to get pregnant. With the support of her husband, Dan, Crosswhite takes her last apparent avenue to bring a life into the world, though the prospects are poor. In other events around the Violent Crimes Squad, Detective Delmo ‘Del’ Castigliano is still reeling at the death of his niece from a heroin overdose. Forced to hold the family together, Del tries to track down the person who derailed his niece’s life after she’d recently completed rehab. When he discovers that she has been sold a highly-potent form of heroin, Del will stop at nothing to run up the supply chain to get to the creep who destroyed his family. Del liaises with Celia McDaniel, working in the D.A.’s office on the rise in drug offences. Del and Celia tackle the legal angles and soon find themselves trying to come to an agreement to remove the dealer from the street before another family is torn apart. When the Article 32 hearing arrives for Trejo, Battles is hoping to score at least a few points before a court-martial. However, a key piece of evidence paralyses the prosecution and all eyes shift to Battles, who was the last person with the box of evidence. A killer going free, a young life taken due to heroin, a budding romance, and the perils of pregnancy. All of these are issues that strike close to home in this latest Dugoni legal thriller that will keep the reader enthralled until the last sentence. Series fans will flock to this and newbies will surely find their curiosity piqued.
I have long been a fan of Dugoni’s work, as I find it flows so easily and keeps the reader’s attention. The growth of Tracy Crosswhite has be prevalent throughout the five novels, allowing the series reader to explore her from various angles. The exploration of her maternal side here is poignant, as her work within Violent Crimes has her consoling witnesses and families on a daily basis. However, she is left to be stoic, even in the face of her own personal tragedies. Dugoni does well to build on this throughout the story, adding aspects of Dan’s interpretation. All this, while Crosswhite keeps her detective skills sharply honed to find a killer. The added storyline involving Del Castigliano pulls on the heartstrings of the reader as the family regresses after the death of a young woman. As Dugoni mentions in his Acknowledgements, he cannot fathom the depths of despair that these people must face, but has tried to put a face on it to allow further character development for Del. Dugoni’s use of other characters pulls the story in many directions, all of which prove useful to the overall story arc. The premise of the novel is timely, even if the drug-related storyline takes second chair to the hit and run. The reader is able to relate to both stories, or at least is given enough to allow them to connect, without dwelling too long and losing the narrative’s momentum. Dugoni’s writing style allows the chapters to flow with ease and the narrative to keep things fresh, which makes digesting the book in short order a real treat for the reader. The only issue with this, is the need to wait for the next instalment, though Dugoni seems to be able to churn them out so easily without losing their quality. I hope many will find Tracy Crosswhite to their liking and add this series to a teetering ‘to be read’ pile. It is well worth the gamble.
Kudos, Mr. Dugoni for impressing yet again with an explosive thriller. You touch the heart while spinning a crime and legal thriller like no other in the genre.