Review: “In the Clearing,” Robert Dugoni

Pros: Fascinated by the investigation into the cold case.
Cons: Modern-day mystery felt superfluous
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Robert Dugoni’s In the Clearing (The Tracy Crosswhite Series) is an interesting investigation into a cold case. In 1976, in Klickitat County, an athletic high school girl (Kimi) dies, having apparently committed suicide by jumping into an icy, fast-paced river one night. In 2016, detective Tracy Crosswhite takes up the case while also working a current case. That one seems like a clear-cut shooting: the couple was getting divorced, and it looks like the wife killed the husband when he pushed his way into their hotly-contested house. Both cases start out looking like one thing, only to turn into something more.

I wanted Tracy to concentrate on the cold case and could have done without the fresh case. It doesn’t take up that much screen-time, is pretty obvious after a quick glance, and only served to confuse me whenever the narrative jumped back to the current case. The divorce-killing felt like an unwanted interruption in the cold case tale.

Kimi’s town is pretty fascinating. There’s a ton of nepotism and cronyism going on, and so many people are hiding secrets. It’s everything that can go wrong, with the residents desperately trying to make everything look okay. Tracy gets some pivotal help from a few friends in the forensic fields, as well as a retired journalist who has a crack memory and keeps all of his files. The author developed those characters very well; they were nearly as fully-fleshed as Tracy was.

The pacing was great. I got hooked on finding out what happened to Kimi, and the only thing that occasionally derailed that excellent pacing was the modern-day case.

The thread of checking out the four local athletic heroes was a little trite, but where it went from there was very different than the setup might lead you to believe. The author also did a great job of giving those characters much more personality than I’d expect.

All in all, this was a good thriller.

NOTE: Review book provided free by publisher

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