Her Deadly Game, by Robert Dugoni

Eight 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.

Robert Dugoni, master storyteller and legal thriller writer extraordinaire, is back with a standalone novel that will have readers on the edge of their seats. Set in his usual Seattle, Dugoni explores a case in which a wheelchair-bound woman is found shot in her home and the husband is the prime suspect. Keera Duggan is ready to work the case, but it will take all her efforts, both to defend the husband and show her family that she can play in the big leagues. A great story that could easily be the opening salvo in a new series. Dugoni at his best and just what fans need to tide them over.

Keera Duggan has a great future as a prosecutor in Seattle, but some personal choices made that path all but impossible. She’s back working in the family law firm, serving as a defense attorney, and trying to keep her alcholic father away from the bottle. Her past as a competitive chess player keeps her memories somewhat positive, though Keera is ready for a new challenge and wants to leave the shadow of her siblings’ disappointing views.

When Keera takes the call of Vince LaRussa, she thinks that she may have found a way to rebuild her career and help the firm rebound to its successful past. LaRussa is an investment advisor who has been accused of murdering his wife, whose wealth is the only positive she has left. Wheelchair-bound after a freak accident, Mrs. LaRussa has been biding her time, but made mention to her closest friend that she may be ready to divorce Vince. This motive, tied with the fact that she was shot in the back of the head, is enough for Seattle PD to begin pulling out all the stops to determine how Vince may have committed the crime. With her former lover serving as the lead prosecutor, Keera is fired up and hopes to make her mark.

While prepping for trial, Vince shows honest sadness for his wife’s murder and hopes that the killer can be found. Keera uses this and a series of cryptic emails to better understand her client and his past. Soon, Keera and her team uncover a complex situation that could better explain the crime scene and those who came to visit the victim in the hours before her death. While Keera follows the path, she learns that there is more to her client and the day of the murder than she first presumed. While it could be a slam dunk to help her win this tense case, it could also open a Pandora’s Box to larger and more troubling things. Dugoni weaves a story of legal loopholes, deception, and a lawyer’s attempt to claim the prize she feels will help her build the family back up once more.

Robert Dugoni is a master at writing stories that will pull the reader into the middle of things and keep them entertained. His stories are always multi-faceted and provide quick development, as the plot thickens and the narrative gains momentum. Dugoni knows what he’s doing and provides a roadmap for the reader to follow. Pulling on past experiences and surely significant research, Dugoni dazzles with each new book he publishes, be it a standalone or one of his highly-acclaimed series novels featuring Tracy Crosswhite. I cannot wait to see where things will go from here and whether Keera Duggan will be back again soon.

Dugoni’s narrative style is one in which the reader is subsumed with ease as things progress around them. A strong foundation helps guide the reader along and adds depth to an already great piece. Strong characters emerge throughout, hinting that Dugoni might want to bring them back for future Seattle adventures, while allowing the reader to decide if they are curious to discover even more. Plot lines develop throughout and build on one another, offering the reader a better insight into the case, Keera’s past, and what could be the real story behind Vince LaRussa. I can only hope that other readers will be as excited as I was when they plunge into this one, sure to keep them flipping pages well into the night.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for proving yet again that you have that magic touch.

What She Found (Tracy Crosswhite #9), 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.

Excited to get my hands on the latest Robert Dugoni novel, I rushed to read it and learn more about the adventures of Detective Tracy Crosswhite. While things in Seattle have been running smoothly, Crosswhite has a great deal still going on, particularly with her work in Cold Cases. Dugoni continues to develop his protagonist in a story where the twists do not stop until the final page. A wonderful addition to the series.

Detective Tracy Crosswhite could not be happier working within the Seattle Police Department, especially with a new Chief of Police. While she has been able to make an impact, she knows that her daily work must not be shelved. When a local reporter approaches Crosswhite to help with the disappearance of her mother 25 years ago, the detective is keen to see what she can uncover. Anita Childress is keen to learn what happened all those years ago and how her mother could up and disappear without a trace.

While Lisa Childress was herself a roaming reporter in 1996, she knew that she could not rely on the memory of others to reveal the truth of many cases. Chasing down a lead one night, Childress simply vanished and her husband was presumed to have murdered her. Living under a veil of suspicion for years, the family soon became local pariahs. Now, Anita wants answers and is not sure her own reporting will be enough to fill in all the gaps.

With Detective Crosswhite now on the case, it would appear that Lisa Childress had been looking into some fairly damning stories, including one about drug trafficking through coastal waters where a police team could have been looking the other way. Might this have been a reason Childress disappeared and could have been murdered? Crosswhite is keen to discover the truth and pulls on some leads of her own, including the original investigating detective.

The more she learns, the less sure Detective Crosswhite is about what she is discovering, but it is only after a trip out of town that things really take a turn. With everything up in the air, a daughter seeking answers about her mother’s disappearance, and Crosswhite feeling the pull from her own family, the case ramps up. Guilty parties seek to hush the sleeping dog that remained quiet for many years, which could have dire consequences. Dugoni adds chills to an eventful thriller, perfect for series fans.

There is nothing like knowing Robert Dugoni has a new book ready for reading, as he is able to mix wonderful ideas with an addictive storytelling ability. I am always highly impressed with Tracy Crosswhite in her stories, especially as there is no lack of character development throughout the experience. Dugoni has a great handle on the series and one can only hope there will be many more books to come, as I am keen to see where things will progress from here.

There is nothing better than an author who has mastered the art of storytelling and knows how to convey their ideas well. Robert Dugoni has never had this issue and keeps readers on the edge of their seats. An easy flowing narrative make the pages melt into one another, as chapters rush by and the story progresses wonderfully. Key characters provide wonderful contrast throughout and there is nothing like seeing Tracy Crosswhite grow, personally and professionally, while those around her also advance in their own way. The plot proves unique and yet grounded, keeping series fans feeling that sense of life in Seattle is ever-evolving and crime is always being explored in new ways. While this is book nine, I can only hope Dugoni has a lot more for his protagonist to do in a series that has not lost its lustre whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for proving that some series can stand the test of time and additions, without getting stale. I want to see what Tracy Crosswhite has to show when she returns soon.

The Silent Sisters (Charles Jenkins #3), by Robert Dugoni

Eight 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.

Long a fan of Robert Dugoni and his work, I turned to the latest instalment of his espionage series. Reviving all that was tense during the Cold War, Dugoni has fashioned a wonderful series around sleeper agents and one American’s duty to protect those involved. Still smarting from his latest Russian prison break, Charles Jenkins is enjoying life with his family. That is, until he’s approached by his CIA handler to return to Russia on a mission. It will be harrowing and dangerous, but necessary to ensure American intel is not lost. As Jenkins makes his way there, people are still hunting for him and will stop at nothing to see him dead. Dugoni does well spinning this tale of depravity and ruthlessness, but it’s all for the greater good!

Still feeling the aches and pains of a Russian prison, Charles Jenkins is happy to be with his family on their farm in the States. All that changes when, during a routine meeting with his CIA handler, Jenkins is told that he will need to help extricate the last of a sleeper cell that is being hunted by the Russian authorities. These women, deemed the Seven Sisters, have been providing America with wonderful intel, but there is a (wo)manhunt for them and the consequences are dire.

With only two left in the country, Jenkins will have to hunt them down and ensure they are safe, before trying to get them stateside for added protection. The trouble is, Jenkins is also a fugitive from the Russian authorities and they are on the hunt for him, sure to skin him alive when he is caught. It’s a precarious balance, but surely one that is needed to keep America safe from its renewed enemy.

As Jenkins makes a splash back in Russia, he tries to locate the two women and makes plans to get them out. However, there are those who have been anxiously awaiting his return, so much so that they will stop at nothing to bring Jenkins to justice once again, as well as a mafia don with revenge in his blood. As the tension mounts, Jenkins will have to formulate a plan to get out of Russia and back on American soil, or die protecting the silent sisters as they flee! Another well-paced novel that shows how versatile Robert Dugoni can be!

While I came to know the work of Robert Dugoni through his crime thrillers, he has surprised me with some great pieces that push the boundaries and take things in other directions. This Charles Jenkins espionage thriller seemed to come out of nowhere and has been gaining momentum for a while. It has all the elements of a stunning thriller, hinting at Cold War situations in a new and technological world. The rise of the new Russian enemy is the perfect backdrop for this piece, which has something for everyone.

Charles Jenkins remains a great protagonist in this piece, serving both as a CIA operative and family man. He has been forced to return to danger, putting his family at risk, but does so for the country he loves. There are surely some strains found within, but Jenkins knows what he has to do and is made out to be the only one who can do it. There are harrowing moments throughout, testing his mettle, but Jenkins seems always keen to do what he can, even if it puts him in excruciating pain.

As with all other Dugoni novels I have read, there is much going on and a need to keep things straight. I loved the back and forth offered by the narrative, as it kept me on my toes and wondering what would happen next. Dugoni offers up a masterful array of options in his narrative, which gains speed as the tension mounts. Strong characters and a plausible story help move things along as well, while short chapters keep the reader coming back for more. There is a real sense of ‘new Cold War’ with these pieces and Dugoni hits the nail on the head. He gives the reader a true sense of the urgency, the slow revelations, and the need to always stay one step ahead of the enemy, if only to ensure one’s own safety. The added benefit of a regular peppering of Russian throughout the text gave it a sense of realism. While I cannot be sure if the scheduled trilogy will end now (some authors seem not to be able to rid themselves of a character, even after they have promised a handful of books), I know I will keep my eyes open for possibilities and exciting new avenues.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for a wonderful story that held my attention throughout. You have a way with words that I thoroughly enjoy and I cannot wait to see what’s next.

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.


The Last Line (Tracy Crosswhite #8.5), by Robert Dugoni

Eight stars

A longtime fan of Robert Dugoni, I was pleasantly surprised to see this short story emerge in his latest series. A prequel of sorts that offers series fans a closer look of another of the SPD Homicide detectives, this piece offers a great tale that is sure to entertain. While Tracy Crosswhite is front and centre in the series, the work of Del Castigliano and Vic Fazzio gets some of the spotlight here. Both rookies, they work through a case that could open up more than a simple motive and cause significant issues for those in their own squad.

Del Castigliano has moved to Seattle for a new start in 1995. His life is in shambles and all he wants is to climb the ranks of the SPD. When he arrives at the scene where two men were found floating in the harbour, Del cannot help but wonder if there is more to the story than a simple drowning. However, his senior partner dismisses it as much of anything and tosses the background investigating to Del.

When something doesn’t add up, Del turns to fellow rookie detective, Vic Fazzio, for some help. Together, they poke around and learn that the two victims have ties to some drug running, but that there may be more to it. As Del and Fazzio try to piece it all together, they realise that they could be sitting on a powder keg that might explode if what they are hearing from interviews comes to light. It’s time to make some serious choices. A great short piece that proves Dugoni is a master, even when constrained by a page limit.

The Tracy Crosswhite series has been one I have come to love for many years, though it is not only the protagonist that pulls me in. The entire team has quirks and great aspects that make each of the eight novels highly exciting. Not only does Dugoni take us back in this piece, but he offers some great backstory on two of the members who work alongside Crosswhite regularly. This masterful short story has all the elements I need for a single sitting read.

Del Castigliano is surely the central actor in this piece, offering up some great backstory that helps put his time on SPD into perspective. Alongside his growth is that of Vic Fazzio, another familiar face to series fans. Some of his own backstory comes to life in this piece, which allows readers to see how they forged a connection that would eventually lead to a strong partnership.

Dugoni offers up an intriguing case that can be digested in short order, offering up just enough drama and controversy to keep it exciting. Great writing, paired with a strong plot and decent character development, kept me flipping pages for thirty minutes to get to the end in a single sitting. Now, while I have to wait for more Tracy Crosswhite, I feel as though I got my dose until the next novel emerges soon!

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for a great filler piece. How you keep up the stories with such high quality, I will never know. Don’t stop now!

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

The World Played Chess, by Robert Dugoni

Eight stars

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

While I have long had an affinity for Robert Dugoni’s series work, he is extremely talented, enough to pen some stunning standalone novels as well. This is another of those, taking the reader through three time periods as the characters explore themselves, the world around them, and struggles of young men in various situations. Dugoni’s theme of struggle is further strengthened by his depiction of one soldier’s view of the Vietnam War, sure to impact many readers who take the time to connect with that particular narrative. A wonderful piece that shows how versatile Dugoni can be in his writing.

Vincent Bianco has high hopes for the summer of 1979. Having just graduated high school, Bianco is hoping to make some pocket money before heading off to college. When he’s given the chance to work with a construction crew, he soon learns just how hard the work can be. He connects with two of the men, William and Todd, just enough to realise that they have quite the history themselves. Both served in the Vietnam War, with stories of their own. Throughout the summer, Bianco finds himself trying to emerge from teen to young man, while also seeing how different his struggles are from those of his coworkers, whose time in Asia eleven years before left an indelible mark, as well as remnants of PTSD.

In a parallel narrative, modern-day Vincent Bianco watches his own son, Beau, come to terms with life after high school and the choices he will make to shape his own future. The elder Bianco tries to steer his son in the right direction, but realises, thinking back to 1979, how important self-discovery can be. Beau suffers his own issues and must make sense of them as best as possible, while striving to better himself, both scholastically and as a young man.

A third perspective emerges in journal entries from William’s personal documentation in 1968 in the jungles of Vietnam. The young man questions himself, the choices of his fellow Marines, and the war as a whole. Seeing horrors unlike anything he could have imagined, he wonders how much is actually making it back home, where people read newspapers and see television news reports of the fighting. Death is everywhere, something no eighteen-year-old could have fathomed a few years before. All while the world seems somewhat ignorant to the real story.

Robert Dugoni is a master at the written word and is able to pull the reader into the middle of each story with ease. His standalone novels always resonate a little more with me, as the themes emerge independently from the series he has has crafted over the years, getting to the core of the reader and forcing them to reflect on what they’ve read. While stories of espionage and police procedurals are great, it’s nice to take a deeper plunge at times as the reader must come to terms with their own feelings, rather than read on autopilot.

The three young men featured in the piece could not be more different from one another, yet rate also so very similar. Just out of high school, each has a plan that is stymied by life events outside of their control. William, Vincent, and Beau all must have epiphanies to see what life means and how they want to leave their mark, wondering at times if they matter at all. The attentive reader will see these three struggles as well as a commonality between them, sure to bind the story together by the closing pages.

I have never had an issue with narrative momentum when it comes to Dugoni’s writing and this was no exception. The story takes hold of the reader from the opening pages and carries them along throughout. There are moments of humour alongside deeply pensive times, forcing moments of contemplation, all while keeping the story clipping along. Each chapter contrasts a longer narrative, set either in 1979 or 2016, with a journal entry from 1968. This permits the reader to contrast and compare effectively as they get to know the three protagonists. While some will bemoan the overly serious nature of the novel, many readers who can take a step back and enjoy something a little ‘meatier’ will likely want to delve deeper and see another side of Robert Dugoni. I loved it, as I needed something to pull me out of my drone reading, forcing me to take notice and ponder my own choices, as well as those of my young son.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for taking the time to write this. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and I am eager to see what else you have in store for your fans in the coming months.

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

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite #8), by Robert Dugoni

Eight 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.

Robert Dugoni is back with another Tracy Crosswhite police procedural procedural, but adds a certain twist to keep the reader guessing. It’s been a tough go for Seattle PD Homicide Detective Crosswhite, but she is not one to let bumps in the road derail her work. Returning from maternity leave, Crosswhite is forced to take a position she does not want, but tosses herself into the work. She discovers an intriguing case that appears to be without strong leads. When Crosswhite is pulled into an active case, she finds her spark again, much to the chagrin of a captain who wants her under his foot. The missing and presumed dead have a voice in Detective Tracy Crosswhite, but she will have to breathe life into their cases before they go cold.

While she loves motherhood, Tracy Crosswhite cannot wait to get back to work. Returning to the Seattle PD’s Homicide Team, Crosswhite hopes to have her position back. However, her wily captain has other ideas, citing that they need to fill the spot while she was on maternity leave. Offering her a position as the cold case detective—one that everyone is sure Crosswhite will decline—it’s a chance for Tracy to decide what she wants next. A pep talk with the retiring detective leaves her willing to give it a shot, if only to scuttle the plans of her nemesis for a while longer.

Crosswhite scours the list of cases and finds one that piques her interest. A little girl went missing when her father took her to a corn maze and was never seen again. Part of a bitter custody battle, the little girl made numerous comments about how her parents fought before the separation. As a beat cop at the time of the disappearance, the father pulls on the heartstrings of Crosswhite, but she must remain objective.

Working on a few of the leads that go nowhere, Crosswhite is pulled into the middle of a fresh investigation with her former partner. A young jogger has gone missing in a local park and no one saw anything. Canvassing the neighbourhood, Crosswhite comes across three brothers who live together but seem to be hiding something. With nothing concrete to assert her claims of guilt, Crosswhite will have to pursue a few options on the sly.

While her missing girl case is going nowhere fast, Detective Crosswhite finds herself fixated on this jogger and how she could have disappeared into thin air. There’s something that is not adding up and those who know Tracy Crosswhite understand that she is not one to let opportunity slip through her fingers. She’ll use all her resources to get to the bottom of it, even if it means putting her future in jeopardy with a captain who wants her head on a platter.

There’s something about this series that has always kept me fully engaged and wondering. Robert Dugoni has crafted a stellar cast and writes so fluidly as to keep the reader on their toes. New ideas emerge with each novel and the series gets better the deeper into the characters Dugoni pulls the reader. I can see this being one series that will not get old any time soon.

Tracy Crosswhite is a stellar detective in her own right, having grown effectively over the last number of novels. Her grit and determination are like no other and she keeps her eye on the prize throughout, hoping to make the most of what is offered to her. Balancing work with motherhood has been tough, but Crosswhite has found a balance, even though it has come at the cost of her preferred job. It will take all she has inside her to solve the cases placed at her feet, while dodging the obstacles of suspects and a captain with an ax to grind. There is mention throughout her cold case investigation about how a missing child can tear a family apart, something Crosswhite knows all too well from her sister’s disappearance. Guilt is nothing new for Detective Tracy Crosswhite, which makes her all the more intriguing as she strives for truth.

Dugoni creates a string of strong secondary characters in this piece that complement Crosswhite when the need arises. Pulled from a variety of sources, those who fill the gaps and keep the reader intrigued offer their own spin on these missing persons cases. Some are straightforward while others prefer to present deceptive fronts, all of whom work well to keep the reader wondering what’s to come. The recurring cast is always welcome, but I also enjoy how Dugoni has created new and one-off characters that keep things exciting for all readers.

There’s something to be said for the novels in this series, as they take police procedurals to a new level. While there are the essential elements found throughout, Robert Dugoni uses his strong writing abilities to create a certain magnetism that pulls the reader into the middle of the case and won’t let go. The narrative pushes along effectively and keeps the reader on their toes until the very end, when the pieces finally come together. It’s a piece that may reveal itself slowly, but once the momentum is started, there’s not tapping on the brakes. Short to mid-length chapters propel the reader forward and keep the story on track, as much is revealed with each page turn. I can only wonder what’s to come and how Dugoni will continue to shape his core set of characters with new and exciting hurdles.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another winner. Your work is some of the best in the genre and I can only hope you have many more ideas to share soon.

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

The Last Agent (Charles Jenkins #2), 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.

Showcasing his abilities outside of police procedurals, Robert Dugoni returns to add another layer to one of his wonderful standalone novels. Thrilling readers throughout this piece of espionage, Dugoni shows that he can craft sensational characters and keep the plot moving along, even behind enemy lines. After his gruelling experience in Russia, Charles Jenkins has no interest in returning. His family is priority #1 and, with a new baby, he does not want to risk upsetting his wife. So, when a CIA operative approaches him, Jenkins is not interested in the message. The Agency is still wondering about their Seven Sisters project, more specifically the Russian CIA operative who helped Jenkins while he was there. Paulina Ponomayova sacrificed her safety to ensure that Jenkins made it out and, if she is still alive, the Agency wants to know about it. Jenkins gives this some thought, wondering if he might be able to extract Paulina and save her as she did for him. A long chat with his wife leads them to understand the need for one final sacrifice. As Jenkins is placed in the region, he will have to make his way on Russian soil and work his magic. Keen to show off his skills, Jenkins boldly enters the country and drops numerous breadcrumbs regarding his presence, which raises many red flags with the FSB, Russia’s Security Agency. As Jenkins seeks to lure them to what he is doing, he touches base with Viktor Federov, the FSB agent whose failure to apprehend Jenkins the first time left him in major trouble. While Federov is leery at first, he soon realises that Jenkins is seeking to redeem them both for troubles their respective countries placed at their feet. They devise a plan to locate Paulina and try to get her out of the country as quickly as possible. After making contact and playing a little sleight of hand, the mission to leave the country begins. This is surely more difficult, as the FSB are everywhere and Jenkins has made himself persona non grata already, particularly to Adam Efimov, who is tasked with locating Jenkins and bringing him in. As Jenkins, Federov, and Ponomavova try to flee Moscow, it will be a fight to the end to get to safety. With the Russian winter upon them, any misstep could cost them their lives in the cold, even before Efimov puts bullet lodges into their skulls. A chilling spy thriller that I had not expected from Robert Dugoni. This is one novel sure to receive much attention for the foreseeable future. Recommended to those who enjoy Dugoni’s work, as well as the reader who finds modern espionage to their liking.

I have been a fan of Robert Dugoni’s work for a while, which usually focuses on legal or police matters. However, this novel has all the elements of a new genre for the author, something he seems to have mastered as well. The attention to detail is evident throughout and the reader is sure to feel as though they are right there, with the ever-developing plot. Charles Jenkins takes centre stage again, though he is slightly more reticent to toss himself into the middle of a dangerous situation. Burnt by his own government, Jenkins wants nothing to do with helping the Agency, but as soon as Paulina Ponomayova‘s name comes up, he knows that he must help. The reader can see some of the emotional connections Jenkins has made in this second novel, though he remains highly work-focussed for much of the book. There is some character development, surely, but the intricate details of his plan hatching steal much of the limelight in this piece. Jenkins does a formidable job, even when faced with adversity, keeping the story moving throughout. A handful of great secondary characters help depict the clash, particularly within Russia. Dugoni’s detail when forming these characters works so well and the reality of the situation becomes apparent throughout, which serves to permit the reader to feel a part of the action. One cannot read this book and not feel that Adam Efimov played a key antagonist role, depicting both the traditional Russian and one whose new connections with the current regime have helped him climb the proverbial ladder. The story began strong and kept getting better. I cannot say enough about Dugoni’s ability to cobble together something so air-tight and yet not forget to inject some needed humour throughout. A modern Cold War thriller for sure, which had the elements of reality sewn into its plot. Using great dialogue and multiple languages kept the reader feeling as though they were standing beside the characters and living each moment. True, I must rely on Dugoni to have used proper lingo and phraseology, but I will leave linguistic nitpicking to others, as I surely felt this added a wonderful flavour to the overall piece. While I do love the Tracy Crosswhite series, this was a wonderful break and shows me that Robert Dugoni’s versatility is surely something to earn him an even larger fan base. Plus, the cliffhanger ending leaves things open for a trilogy, should everyone want to play along.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another wonderful book. You never cease to impress and I cannot wait to see what else you have up your sleeve.

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

A Cold Trail (Tracy Crosswhite #7), by Robert Dugoni

Eight 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.

Returning for another instalment of this series, I turn to Robert Dugoni and hope that the quality remains high and the plot twists plentiful. I was not disappointed with this novel, which returns to some roots and provides a core storyline that many series fans will surely enjoy. Tracy Crosswhite is on the mend, with a newborn and an energetic husband. As they renovate the home Dan’s parents once owned, Tracy is back in Cedar Grove, alongside all the memories of her youth. When a house fire kills a local journalist, the town is abuzz with the news, though it is something she was working on that has Tracy more than interested. New revelations about a case from two decades before have come to life, casting doubt that a young woman’s death was at the hands of the same serial killer who murdered Tracy’s sister. The local police are happy to let Tracy use her Seattle skills to help uncover the truth, though she remains uncertain if she wants to thrust herself into the path of danger yet again. When Tracy sees the ME’s report, she is left to wonder if a new batch of suspects might have had motive to kill. Now, all those who have seen the report are dying, likely not from the natural causes to which things have been attributed. Meanwhile, Dan has been doing some legal work in town, helping a store owner negotiate with the town council about buying his property. The council lawyer seems to be pushing hard to offer a settlement, but Dan cannot be entirely sure if there is more to the story. When someone targets Tracy at the house while Dan is away, everything becomes a little more real and the fragile balance of work and home life come crashing together. Might both Tracy and Dan have taken on more than they can chew in Cedar Grove? Another great piece in the series that has me devouring the story and hoping for more. Recommended to series fans who need a little Tracy Crosswhite fix, as well as the reader who loves a small-town mystery with big-city thrills.

I have loved this series since I first got my hands on it and this book has not disappointed whatsoever. Dugoni has a great handle on the characters, plot, and development, even as he juggles a few writing commitments at this time. Returning to Cedar Grove is surely tough for Tracy Crosswhite, where the memories of her childhood linger and knowledge that her sister’s murder two decade before remains on the minds of everyone she sees. Tracy is forced to face many of these fears and the people she knew growing up, though she sees many of them in a new light. Her struggles with that are balanced with the unknowns around being a new mother and trying to do what is best for her daughter. Throughout, the reader can see the pull of both worlds, as well as Tracy trying to define how her life as a detective might be permanently changed, what with a little one who depends on her. This is nicely offset with her husband, Dan, who has some of the same issues, but more that Tracy is thrusting herself into danger. He struggles to determine if he should and can be that protector for his family, while also keeping up a legal practice. Introspection for both characters enriches the story immensely. There are a handful of others who grace the pages and add depth to an already jam-packed story, keeping the reader attentive to all the clues and possible motives that lurk behind every corner. Dugoni does well to bring the story ‘home’ in a sense, allowing Crosswhite and the others to focus on the small picture, which is actually part of the larger one (if that makes sense). With a mix of short chapters that propel the reader forward and longer ones that set the stage for more excitement, this novel is one that can be tackled in short order, as the pages melt away. A legal thriller and police procedural rolled into one, this is one of Dugoni’s best in the series.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another stellar piece of work. I am so very excited to see how well things are going and cannot wait to see where you take your readers next.

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

The Eighth Sister, 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.

While Robert Dugoni is the author of two successful series, his standalone novels grip the reader just as effectively. There is something refreshing about an author who has so many ideas and whose name is indicative of stellar writing and plausible storylines. Charles Jenkins has been out of the spy game for many years. After serving as a CIA field agent in Mexico City, he left abruptly and eventually began work on his own security company. Four decades on, Jenkins has found solace in his wife, Alex, as well as a son, with a second child on the way. When a former Agency colleague pays a visit, Jenkins knows that it is not a friendly check-in, especially after all this time. Jenkins soon learns that a number of Russian women are turning up dead in and around Moscow. While this is nothing concerning on the surface, they were all feeding secret intel to the Americans, part of a group called the ‘Seven Sisters’. While these women were excellent at their jobs, none knew they were anything but isolated individuals defying Mother Russia during her time as the USSR. With the rise of Putin and a new authoritarian regime, whispers of the Seven Sisters re-emerged, especially since Putin was once a KGB officer and keenly interested in the rumours. Now, it would seem that there is an eighth sister working for Putin and the FSB; one who is tasked with sniffing out these traitors. Enter, Charles Jenkins, who is being sent to Russia under cover of checking up on one of his client’s former offices, to seek to have the newest sister reveal herself and let the Americans take it from there. However, when Jenkins’ mission is compromised, he becomes the hunted inside Russia, while the CIA denies any knowledge and will offer no help. Back in America, Alex is given instructions by her husband to leave their home and seek out David Sloane, a friend and established Seattle attorney. While Sloane and Alex know nothing of what is going on, they can only hope that Jenkins still has the antics he possessed forty years ago to extricate himself from this mess. Little does he know, his fight to get away from the FSB is only the start to the headaches that await him. Another stunning novel by Dugoni that reignites old Cold War drama, alongside some stunning legal developments. Recommended for those who love stories of espionage, especially the reader who is a longtime fan of Robert Dugoni’s writing.

I always flock to a new Robert Dugoni novel, knowing that I will not be disappointed. Even his standalone pieces keep me intrigued, helping to fill the void that arises when I have to wait for the next instalment of his popular Tracy Crosswhite series. Dugoni enjoys filling his novels with details that are more poignant than fillers, keeping the reader educated as well as entertained from the opening paragraphs until the tumultuous final sentences. The development of his protagonist, Charles Jenkins was quite effective, hinting at a past within the Agency without offering up too many details. Pulling on this and linking it effectively to the Cold War-esque storyline helped the reader see the connection, as well as seek to know a little more. As the story progresses and Jenkins finds himself on the run, the reader learns a little more about Jenkins and his family, a core part of why he has stayed off the grid for so long. The story also tests Jenkins’ resolve to better understand just how far he can go as an agency plant to extract needed information with ease. Working with that is a handful of characters, both in Russia’s FSB and back in America, trying to help Jenkins flee the trouble in which he finds himself. Dugoni effectively juggles both sets of characters, developing a strong espionage theme throughout as the race to safety (or elimination) mounts with each passing page. Of particular note in the inclusion of David Sloane into the story. Longtime fans of Robert Dugoni will know that this was the author’s first series protagonist and an effective lawyer he was. I cut my teeth on that series and respected Dugoni the more I read of it. Sloane, still a Seattle attorney, plays an effective and essential role, giving fans a jolt of excitement to see him back on the page. The story was quite strong, particularly in an age when Russia is back to play a key role on the international political and spy scene. Dugoni keeps the chapters flowing and the action mounting as the struggle for freedom becomes more desperate. Dugoni is on the mark with this piece and it goes to show just how masterful an author he has become.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, on another splendid addition to your writing list. I am always eager to see what you have in store for fans and was not disappointed with this effort.

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

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

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.