In the Clearing – Robert Dugoni

Received an ARC from Thomas and Mercer through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review

This is the third in the Detective Tracy Crosswhite series and the second book by Robert Dugoni that I have read (The Jury Master being the first and which I loved). Tracy has a penchant for solving cold cases since she can empathize with the families of the victims who have no idea what happened to their loved ones – her own sister was lost many years ago and her fate discovered only years later. Since I haven’t read the previous books I have no idea whether that she has solved that mystery or not but I am certainly going to go looking for them now.
In this book Tracy attends the funeral of Buzz Almond, the detective father of a dear friend and classmate, Jenny Almond, from the police academy and when Jenny asks her to look into a forty year old suicide case file left behind by Buzz, she can’t say no. The case involved the disappearance and subsequent suicide of a Native American young girl and the fact that Buzz left the file lying around for his daughter to find makes her believe that there might have been something fishy about it. Knowing that Tracy has a knack and an interest in solving such cases and given her own professional position Jenny makes the correct decision to hand over the investigation to her.

SPOILERS AHEAD !

This was one of those novels where the reader is told or figures out almost at the beginning of the book who the culprits were and the mystery pretty much ends there. The rest of the book is spent in trying to figure out ways of bringing them to justice. Not very easy after 40 years, for sure, considering there is no evidence, the case was deemed solved all those years ago and a pretty canny cover up took care of the rest. What keeps the book ticking was the eventual destiny of the culprits. Guilt and fate decree that they must pay for their crimes in some way or the other and one by one they seem to succumb under the pressure of their long forgotten crime. And then the author obviously gets what he wants when the reader begins to question whether the men can be absolved of the crime they committed as boys?
Tracy seems to be a bit of the background scenery in this book, with Buzz and the case taking center stage. The story keeps alternating between present day and the investigation that Buzz carried out at the time of the disappearance which keeps it interesting. Tracy simply follows in the footsteps of Buzz and manages to reach the same conclusion that he did. The only difference is that she is in the position to be able to take steps to bring justice to the long dead girl.
I failed to understand why Buzz who as an honest and pretty important guy himself by the time he died, did not try to open the case himself later on. His children were grown up and responsible adults and he need have had no more fear on their account. And why, if he chose to remain mum all his life, should he leave the file on the missing girl for his daughter to find?
If the plot seems a little disappointing, the style of the narrative definitely keeps the reader interested. I would certainly like to read the rest of the books in this series and other books by the author also. Tracy Crosswhite definitely brims with promise.

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