The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

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When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight.

*********

I’m a fan of Robert Dugoni’s books, having discovered him through NetGalley.

I like his writing style. His books seem to have a bit of substance – a good balance of scene setting, characters, dialogue and importantly, as far as I am concerned, a well-written, entertaining story. This one is no exception.

The Trapped Girl is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Tracy is a strong character, a homicide detective in the Seattle Police Department and she leads a good team. In the previous books, she’s had problems with her boss, Captain Johnny Nolasco. They really don’t like each other and in the past he has made life difficult for Tracy but this time round, we see a slightly softer, more mature side to Tracy and while she is still disagreeing with her boss, she’s trying a different approach. Her personal life also seems more settled.

Tracy and her colleague Kins are called out to a body found near Cormorant Cove, not far from Tracy’s home. A high school student who is out crabbing illegally in Puget Sound caught more than he bargained for when he pulled up a crab pot with a young woman’s body in it. It turned out the victim had facial implants of the kind to change her appearance and by tracing the serial numbers to the manufacturer, eventually got a name from the plastic surgeon who had carried out the procedure – but little else. Lynn Hoff had paid in cash, and had requested that she be given all the photographs taken.

Further investigation leads them to believe Lynn Hoff did not want to be found and had never been reported as missing. No history, a fake social security number, no employment, no phone, nothing.

But then the story takes another twist. Tracy obtains Lynn Hoff’s drivers licence and the photo is passed around. She is contacted by a ranger based in Mount Rainier National Park. He believes the woman is someone who went missing, presumed dead, in unusual circumstances on the mountain, except he says her name is Andrea Strickland.

Just as Tracy’s team are starting to get somewhere, they are ordered to hand the case over to Pierce County who had investigated Andrea Strickland’s disappearance from Mount Rainier. Tracy wasn’t happy about this particularly since she considered their detective, Stan Fields, had carried out a pretty sloppy investigation into the circumstances surrounding Andrea Strickland’s disappearance. So of course Tracy being Tracy, she carries on investigating (just a little) after complying with the order to hand over the case.

Some of the chapters in the book are in the voice of Andrea Strickland (in journal form) so you get a lot of background as to what was happening with her work, her marriage, her husband, her friends, a few months earlier, all adding to the mystery and throwing up possible suspects.

It’s a complex plot but written so well that it is not difficult to follow. There are great twists and turns. I thought I had sussed it out, but I didn’t get it quite right. For a while it looked like I was going to be close, but then there was another twist. Wonderful stuff. Definitely a page-turner.

Although The Trapped Girl is fourth in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

My thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing an ARC.

Author’s website:  www.robertdugoni.com.

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