Wednesday, December 16, 2020

In Her Tracks - Robert Dugoni

I have to admit that I was reluctant to begin reading Robert Dugoni’s In Her Tracks after I noticed that the book is Dugoni’s eighth Tracy Crosswhite novel. I wondered how much not having more of the detective’s backstory in-hand would detract from my enjoyment of this new one, and feared it was probably too late a book for me to jump into the series as a first-time reader. That seemed fair neither to Dugoni nor to me. Happily, as it turns out, I needn’t have worried.


Dugoni handles late-starters like me by seamlessly inserting the skeleton of Crosswhite’s backstory throughout the first few chapters of In Her Tracks. Tracy Crosswhite, who has a tenth-month-old daughter, extended her maternity leaver in order to deal with the  psychological damage she suffered the previous winter. She has, in fact, been diagnosed with “situational PTSD” and is seeing a counselor. But now, Crosswhite believes that she is ready to return to her job as a Violent Crimes detective in the Seattle Police Department. She has been working there with the same team of detectives for over ten years, and she’s missed them. Departmental Captain Johnny Nolasco, though, hasn’t been particularly looking forward to her return and has, in fact, assigned her old desk to a new female detective. The “mutual animosity” Nolasco and Crosswhite share is nothing new; it goes all the way back to their days at the police academy. Now, they tolerate each other only because it is to their mutual benefit.


The good captain can hardly wait to tell Crosswhite that the only empty desk he has in the Violent Crimes group is the one working cold cases — and that he only even has that desk available  because the detective on it is retiring. For Tracy Crosswhite, it’s either work cold cases or quit, and both of them know that Nolasco is really hoping that she takes the second option. Which is exactly why she won’t quit.


Crosswhite has long been one of the best detectives the SPD has, and when her old partner asks for her help on a case involving a female jogger who has just gone missing, she jumps in with both feet despite already having begun work on her own cold case involving a little girl who disappeared five years earlier. Captain Nolasco, to say the least, is not happy when he learns that Crosswhite has so quickly strayed from her cold case work, and he pulls her from the new case. Crosswhite, however, soon figures a way to link other cold cases with the current missing-jogger investigation closely enough to use the older cases as a backdoor into the jogger case, at the same time figuring that what Captain Nolasco doesn’t know can’t hurt her. 


Bottom Line: If In Her Tracks is any indication, the Tracy Crosswhite novels are largely the type of character-driven ones that most appeal to readers who enjoy immersing themselves in long series. Half the fun in a detective series comes from watching the main characters evolve over time into people readers eventually come to love and respect. The other half, of course, comes from reading about cleverly constructed cases the fictional detectives must solve over the course of a number of years. It gets even better when two or three cases are simultaneously explored in the same novel, but not all writers can pull off that trick. Robert Dugoni is one of those who can, and he does it without all of the confusion that often accompanies trying to follow more than one plot line at a time. The last thing I need right now, as a reader, is another long detective series to keep up with, but I’ve gladly added the Tracy Crosswhite series to my reading list.


Robert Dugoni (Photo by Douglas Sonders)


Review Copy provided by Publisher

6 comments:

  1. I started at the beginning (after seeing Dugoni and Marcia Clark at The Poisoned Pen), and now I'm on book four if memory serves. I'm really enjoying the series.

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    1. I'll be circling back to the earlier books as I can work them in. Dugoni's writing style really appeals to me.

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  2. It's nice when you can jump into a series like this mid-stream and not feel completely lost. :)

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    1. Dugoni managed to give me a good sense of who Tracy Crosswhite IS in the first couple of chapters so I felt pretty comfortable the rest of the way. Too, he threw in references to her backstory every so often for the rest of the way that continued to clarify the character in my mind. This worked really well as a "standalone" read.

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  3. This sounds like a series I would like, I read a lot of mystery/detective series. Some of them, due to the age of or death of the authors, will be ending soon. I love Andrea Camilleri's series set in Sicily but don't know how many more he will write. So I keep on the look out for series new to me.

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    1. Terra, Dugoni is just such a good writer that I've become a fan of anything he publishes. Tracy Crosswhite is one of those characters that seems to have changed greatly over the course of the eight books (at least that's the impression I get from reading this latest one). That means it's probably best to read them in order - I suppose it always is - so I'll be going back to book one next.

      Speaking of Italian detective series...have you tried the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibden? The author died back in 2007, so the series is done now, but it is one I really enjoyed.

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