Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review of "The Trapped Girl" by Robert Dugoni




While indulging in a spot of illicit crabbing in Seattle's Puget Sound, teenager Kurt Schill finds a dead woman in a crab pot. Detective Tracy Crosswhite and her team from the Seattle Police Department's Violent Crimes Section get the case. Having been noshed on by crabs the woman is unidentifiable by ordinary means. However implants from facial surgery lead the detectives to identify her as Andrea Strickland, a woman who disappeared months before while climbing Mount Rainier with her husband Graham.

Since Mount Rainier is in Pierce County, the missing woman case was investigated by Detective Stan Fields from that region. Detective Fields thought Andrea Strickland was dead, perhaps pushed off the mountain by her husband. So when Andrea's body turns up in Puget Sound months later, Fields - angry that Andrea might have committed insurance fraud or other hijinks - demands the case back.

Tracy - whose sister was murdered twenty years ago - hates to give up any case, especially if it involves a young woman. And Tracy is especially reluctant to yield the investigation to Detective Fields, a cocky lout who ogles women. So Tracy's pleased when the disappearance of another woman eventually returns the case to the Seattle P.D. As their inquiries proceed Tracy and her team learn that at least one person has acquired a new identity and a lot of money has disappeared.

The story switches back and forth between two points of view: the detectives investigating the crimes and excerpts from Andrea's journal. In her diary Andrea, who worked for an insurance company, talks a lot about her love of books. Andrea also describes meeting and marrying Graham, a handsome show-offy lawyer who wears designer suits and drives a red Porsche.

Soon after Andrea and Graham marry, the lawyer - who has big ideas - insists that they quit their jobs and open a marijuana dispensary (which is legal in Washington). This requires a big wad of startup money that Andrea and Graham don't have. As it happens Andrea has a trust fund, but it's strictly for her personal needs and CAN'T be used for a business. So Graham - angry about the trust fund - commits fraud to get a bank loan. And since Graham knows nothing about business, things go downhill from there.

As the story unfolds the plot gets quite complicated because there are a number of potential 'bad guys.' To keep things straight, the detectives repeatedly discuss who might have done what to whom - which includes a number of different scenarios. I found this confusing and hard to follow. I also thought the perp putting the body in a crab pot was a bad idea. If you don't want a body found you should tie it to cement blocks and drop it in deep water (just my opinion). I was also put off by the repeated references to Andrea's obsessive reading, which had a whiff of hyperbole.

On the upside, there are interesting twists in the story and Detective Tracy Crosswhite - as well as her partner Kins and fellow detectives Faz and Del - are likable characters that have a strong bond with each other. At one point - to commemorate a happy occasion for Tracy - Del's wife Vera prepares a delicious meal of lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and homemade cannoli....accompanied by good wine. (Yummy!) I also like the book's setting, Washington and Mount Rainier, which provides a nice ambiance to the story.

The book's climax is dangerous and exciting, and reveals exactly what happened and why. I predicted some bends in the story but the ending surprised me. Overall this is an enjoyable book that I'd recommend to mystery lovers, especially fans of the Tracy Crosswhite series.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book.

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