The setting largely takes place in Prince William County in northern Virginia and features Detective Amanda Steele. Amanda, a seasoned detective, is partnered with Detective Trent Stenson. They catch a case at Leesylvania State Park when hikers find the body of a young woman along the Potomac River. There’s no identification on her and she has been staged for public display. This includes a black orchid being placed on her chest. Who is the girl? Why was she killed? What is the significance of the orchid? Did the killer know the victim or was it random?
Amanda has to balance work and family. She is fostering a young girl from a previous case and is in the process of adopting her. Her flaws and struggles made her seem realistic. While Amanda shows growth and depth as the story progresses, readers get little insight into Trent other than his work ethics. However, despite only being partners for a few months, their dynamics enhanced the story line.
What a first sentence! The novel starts with a vivid and brutal scene that immediately pulls the reader into the lives of the characters. The author does a great job of showing the dark and gritty reality of a killer at work and the devastation one leaves behind. The descriptive writing style draws one in and keeps you turning the pages. However, despite being descriptive, I couldn’t really tell that this was set in northern Virginia versus elsewhere with a nearby river. Another quibble I had was with an interview with two people which seems counter to normal procedure. It seems that they should have been interviewed separately.
The plot is suspenseful, full of chasing down leads and interviewing suspects and witnesses in anticipation of identifying and stopping the killer. The story gradually builds momentum until it finally peaks with a fantastic action scene and astonishing conclusion. I enjoyed how the author twists the plot points and provides unpredictable moments in the story. These twists and surprises keep readers on their toes. Will you see that ending coming? Themes include murder, flower symbolism, relationships, families, secrets, bullying, grief, and more.
Overall this novel was gripping, engaging, and atmospheric. This is the fourth book that I have read by this author, but the first I’ve read in this series. I can’t wait to find out what is next for Amanda and Trent. Thought-provoking and engrossing, I recommend this to those that like gritty police procedurals.
Bookouture and Carolyn Arnold provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently expected to be February 10, 2022.