Mallory Petersen is a hard hitting Private Investigator, quite literally as she is also a fourth degree black belt with her own Taekwondo school. Most of her cases are mundane and run of the mill; employee checks, suspicious spouses and so on. When a distraught mother appears at her office Mallory is drawn into an investigation that will put her in danger and show her the worst of mankind.
Eight year old Cindy McGee has been kidnapped from play park. Mallory establishes from her contacts that local police have few leads and the FBI breathing down their necks, as the disappearance is one in a recent series. Her investigation quickly leads her to the dark world of child pornography. When the trail leads from Des Moines, Iowa to the Quad Cities she teams up with a Special Case Squad who have their own share of drudge work and a team leader who appears to appreciate Mallory and her slightly unorthodox methods. This tense thriller has the reader wondering whether she can find Cindy and who is behind the ring peddling young children like merchandise.
This book tackles a dark and emotive subject but does so in a way that provides enough detail to make the level of depravity clear, but without becoming too graphic. What is left unsaid is powerful enough. There are parts where the viewpoint switches from Mallory to Cindy, and through her eyes the horror of the situation becomes even more immediate. I enjoyed the tone Mallory adopts, reminding me slightly of old fashioned PI films. The narrative is fast paced and there is plenty of action as Mallory comes up against those who have secrets they would rather keep hidden. The ending reinforced feelings I was having throughout the book and was unexpected. Fortunately a hint of romance with an Adonis provides a bit of light relief.
I really enjoyed the characters, most of whom had some little quirk that made them endearing. At one point Mallory seemed a little too close to indestructible, even with her training in mind, so it was good to see she had a vulnerable side. I was intrigued by her serene assistant and amused by her snitch Willy and persistent suitor Brougham. As the book is described as "A Mallory Petersen Mystery" I'm very much hoping we will see further instalments which will reveal a bit more about her past and develop some of the characters in this book further.
I raced through this book, which in addition to the positives above was well formatted and virtually typo free. I'd be very happy to read more by this author in future.
Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Echelon Press
My Rating: 4*