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The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 11th June 2017
The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne WhiteThe Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White
Series: Angie Pallorino #1
Published by Montlake Romance on June 20th 2017
Pages: 524
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three-stars


He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared ...

But Detective Angie Pallorino never forgot the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victim’s foreheads.
When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?​Then the body of a drowned young woman floats up in the Gorge, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.
Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake lose some unsettling secrets about her own past . . .
How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie?

There’s no doubt that Loreth Anne White writes excellent police procedurals in their gritty, brutal glory. Her angst-ridden characters, worn down by the nature of their work, are jaded and cynical with nary an ounce of optimism in them and as we tend to learn at the start of the book, wrestle with their own broken lives as they keep disappointing their families before they find some kind of equilibrium by the end of it. Their behaviours tend to mirror the nature of the crimes they’re investigating, stopping short of going past the grey areas into the forbidden and while the psychology behind it all is intriguing, I always find myself coming out of every White suspense read unsure, uncertain and strangely in need of a thorough cleaning.

Irascible, combative and abrasive, Angie Pallorino is straight out, a character difficult to like or side with, unlike a typical romance heroine for whom an author tries to get the readers to have an affinity. Everything about her, like White’s protagonists, can and does rub me the wrong way especially in the manner she uses people and men. But her tenacity is also what makes her a good detective and her career is probably all she has.  Like Angie, James Maddocks is running on his own fumes, rebuilding his life in a place where he can hopefully also rebuild his relationship with his daughter. They don’t get off to the best start: a one night stand that ends in coitus interruptus followed by a hostile meeting at the work place. But Maddocks is the upstanding, strong one who’s got his head on relatively straight in contrast and I liked that steadying presence he seems to provide throughout.

There’s very little on the romance in White’s latest suspense books and this is no different. The multiple POVs and the doubts cast on each and every character does a good job of distancing you from them, bringing into focus instead, the complicated but excellent set up of the crime scenes. The search for justice and laborious police work are White’s focal points—along with the superb Hitchcockian suspense kind of writing—and her characters merely players as they try to untangle this web of brutal deaths. It’s packed with tons of details that makes it a difficult read in that sense, and heavy-going in a way gritty crime fiction can be, which naturally brings me to the question that I’ve always struggled with when it comes to romantic suspense that’s heavy on the suspense: is it possible to ‘love’ a read when it’s simply about the case (that’s fantastically set up, no doubt), even if there are characters you don’t exactly connect with or feel for?

Angie’s story however, is pretty much unfinished. ‘The Drowned Girls’ seems to end on tenterhooks, on a tipsy toast that hopes for a better tomorrow, but with the sequel in store, you just know it’s going to unravel once more, until you’re back down through the looking glass, as dislocated as the characters who themselves don’t know any better but to screw things up.

three-stars

In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews 7th July 2016
In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne WhiteIn the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White
Published by Montlake Romance on August 16th 2016
Pages: 394
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three-stars

In the Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, night consumes every hour of the winter. Humans are scarce; ferocious predators roam freely. Locals say spirits do, too.
Rookie cop Tana Larsson doesn’t mind the dark and quiet. Five months pregnant and hoping to escape the mistakes of her past, she takes a post in Twin Rivers, population 320. Maybe here she can find peace and community for her child.
But with her superior out of commission, Tana becomes the sole police officer in 17,500 square miles. One bitter night, she gets a call about the fatal wolf mauling of two students, and the only way to reach the remote scene is to enlist the help of the arrogant, irritatingly handsome Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, a local bush pilot with a shady reputation for smuggling and a past cloaked in shadow.
When the macabre scene they uncover suggests violence much more sinister than animal, Tana must trust Crash if she wants to protect the town—and herself—from the evil that lurks in the frozen dark.

I never know what I’m going to get each time I start a Loreth Anne White novel. Every book of hers is a mixed bag of treasures and I’ve learned that appreciating her books is akin to appreciating crime fiction: the rush comes from getting lost in the intricate mystery and the horrific details of the crimes and the whodunnit guessing games rather than getting vested in its characters that are like chess pieces, moved around to suit the author’s purposes.

The cold, brutal violence is what hits you ‘In the Barren Ground’; White brings to life a malevolence that seems to be tied to an ancient evil, to things unseen but are never more felt and feared in the isolated far Canadian North. Characters talk in circles with averted eyes, never quite admitting to anything, content to sink the circumstances surrounding the mangled bodies in the oblique references to indigenous myth and bad juju. They lead, mislead and deceive, but they feed the imagination and provide the clues you badly need to get to the bottom of it all, even if they’re really talking about spirits, beasts and monsters. I’m quite inclined to believe all of it – that good is White’s way with words.

And that’s the fun bit.

But as with most crime novels however, White’s lead characters can’t ever be my favourites or memorable in their own right. They operate entirely in shades of grey, are too ugly to be adored or put on a literary pedestal, and are screwed up in a way that makes you believe they are beyond redemption. Tana and Crash exemplify all of it to a T. At times, they are downright dislikable but distanced as I am from them, do actually manage to sidestep the mess they’ve made of their lives to keep my focus on the developing story. Because of this, I’ve always thought of White’s leads as narrative puppets, manipulated around red-herrings and slippery slopes of reasoning that might lead nowhere. As a result, they’re also difficult to connect with, let alone empathise with at all.

For this reason I’d feel more comfortable classifying ‘In the Barren Ground’ as a police procedural with (very few) romantic elements than romantic suspense. Its appeal lies in the best-loved tropes of the horror genre and combines these hints of the supernatural in a remote location where nature’s laws overrun man’s. Or at least it’s what we’re led to think up until the last few chapters of the book. The big reveal, when it came, was an astonishing let down (it got close to veering into B-grade horror movie territory), the unravelled plot way less compelling than what it had been building up to, leaving me flabbergasted and limp with disbelief because it seemed too much of a cop-out to work.

three-stars

In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th September 2015
In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne WhiteIn the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White
Published by Amazon Publishing on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 420
Buy on Amazon
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four-stars

Two decades after her sister's brutal attack and murder, Meg Brogan has finally found happiness...or so it appears. A bestselling true-crime writer, Meg has money, fame, and a wealthy fiancé. But when a television-show host presses her to tackle the one story everyone claims she cannot write--the story of her own family's destruction--her perfect life shatters.
Determined to finally face her past, Meg returns to her hometown of Shelter Bay. Shrouded in cold, brooding fog, the close-knit coastal town harbors dark secrets and suspicious residents. One of the few people to welcome Meg back is Blake Sutton, her high-school sweetheart and the marina's new owner. Desperate for clues, Meg digs through her family's files. As Pacific storms brew outside, her passion for Blake reignites.
But someone doesn't want Meg digging up the past. And that person will go to deadly lengths to prevent the writer from revealing a terrible truth.

The idyllic small town carries dark secrets that Meg Brogan is about to unleash and no one but her old friend and flame Blake Sutton is supportive of her decision to do that. As Meg and Blake struggle with their attraction and commitment to each other, the can of worms she has forced open has also set in motion a juggernaut of events that eventually puts their lives at stake.

Loreth Anne White’s standalone novels have been impressive so far and this is no different, even if it’s truly hard to like the recounting of brutality and the fight to stop evil in its wake. The complicated past is reconstructed through dialogues, book excerpts and memories – and all are unreliable with the secrets that every character wants to protect. Darkly atmospheric and extremely unsettling, we’re taken through these floating pieces of the puzzle just as we’re always forced to consider whether really knowing a person is in fact, an utter impossibility.

four-stars
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