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This novel introduces Janelle Wallace, former San Francisco cop who is still traumatized, physically and emotionally, but a missing-child case gone badly. She has given up searching for missing children…until now. She ends up pursuing leads in her hometown of Greenville where her former partner/lover, Ken Heinz, is sheriff. Janelle is perhaps more damaged than your usual damaged heroine, with childhood abuse, physical injury, PTSD, and an unhealthy fascination with fire, but she was surprisingly likable. Her issues are thorny and the book is often dark, but her own sardonic wit and her secretary’s observations add desperately needed comic relief. “She kept that smile fixed on her face. ‘I’m not at liberty to divulge Sheriff Heinz’s current location. But I’d be glad to take a message,’ she told me cheerily. I rarely let myself be thwarted by cheer.” She’s fully aware of her flaws, and she knows she doesn’t have them under control, but she tries. There’s a lot of metaphorical fire talk that could easily be tedious or cliche, but I liked Janelle enough that it seemed to fit right in. The Ken/Janelle tension was blah to me, but fans of romantic suspense will expect it. Janelle is the strength of this story, so passages from the point of view of a psycho weren’t really interesting to me, but again, thrillers are expected to include psycho point of view, and I was invested enough in the mystery to slog through those passages.

A promising start to a private detective/thriller/damaged heroine series. I liked Janelle, and I’ll follow where she goes next.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.

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