Carrie Stuart Parks
Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has more than one problem. She is a recent cancer survivor, is recently divorced, has a problem teenage daughter, and has no income because the county budget will not allow Sheriff Dave Moore to put her back to work. Then her dog, foraging in the Montana countryside, brings part of a human skull back to her.
Gwen follows the dog back to where it found the skull, and she finds a shallow grave with remains of two people in it. The dog also finds a sandal with fresh blood on it. So Gwen investigates a nearby abandoned farmhouse, where she finds yet another victim. This one has been tortured, but is alive—and she looks surprisingly like Gwen’s daughter.
The tortured girl was abducted from an adjoining county, so Gwen’s find sets off an investigation involving law enforcement of both counties. Using her forensic skills on the originally discovered skull, Gwen finds that that victim, too, could look like her daughter. And a new murder victim turns up, also looking like Gwen’s daughter. As the investigation proceeds. It becomes clear that an insane serial killer is deliberately targeting Gwen.
Why? Gwen used her forensic skills regarding a neo-Nazi bombing in another state, and there is an active neo-Nazi group near Gwen’s location. The killer is using look-alikes of Gwen’s daughter to taunt Gwen before a final action that will kill both Gwen and her daughter. So the killer is someone close enough to Gwen to know her history and habits, someone that Gwen may be dealing with on a regular basis. To save her own life and her daughter’s, Gwen must find that person before that person moves to the final act.
Carrie Stuart Parks handles these materials deftly, building the mystery step by step and character by character, with tension growing as the plot progresses. The author herself is skilled in various forensics as well as reconstructive art. Consequently, the novel becomes in many ways a veritable textbook on forensic investigations. But these details never get in the way of the story. For the story builds through steadily increasing tension to a thrilling climax and satisfying denouement. It’s an excellent thriller, highly recommended.
Review by Donn Taylor