The third one in the Tracy Crosswhite series, In the clearing is a fine offering made by Robert Dugoni. Featuring Seattle Homicide Detective Tracy Crosswhite, the series has kept Dugoni in the Amazon top 10 for more than two years. He is also the author of the legal thriller series featuring David Sloane. In all he has published 10 novels and an expose, The Cyanide Canary.
Drawing a direct reference to the name, the cover depicts a clearing surrounded by trees. The title stands boldly against the heavy background, which just seems like both the title and the illustration is wrestling for attention.
The cover draws a direct reference to the title which again draws direct reference to the site of the tragedy. However, I have a mixed opinion about the cover, because though the illustration and the lettering are heavy it still manages to hold your attention.
It is the third book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, she is a polished homicide detective and has a penchant for tackling unsolved crimes. Having lost her own sister to murder at a young age, Tracy dedicates her career to bringing justice and closure to the families and friends of victims of crime. She takes on the apparent suicide of a teenage girl, Kimi Kanasket in the 1970’s, which on further probing turns out to be a murder.
The case is originally investigated by Buzz Almond, who’s daughter hands over the case to Tracy on his demise. Buzz plays a significant part in the plot. The dead teenage girl, is the victim around whose death the story revolves.
The other significant characters are another victim, and his wife and son – both being suspects for his murder. Other characters that play a important roles are Kimi’s boyfriend, her family, the four teenage boys who shoot to fame after winning a game in the 1970’s, Tracy’s boyfriend (who apparently has a much larger and significant role in the previous books but it somehow in the background in this one) and Tracy’s team along with a fleet of forensic experts who put the story in perspective.
The book is narrated in two different times- one in the 1970’s where Buzz Almond’s investigation is explained, and the other one set in the time where Tracy is investigating the case. It also involves murders of two completely unconnected victims.
While the case at hand is the murder of a man, who loses his life in his estranged wife’s house. The suspects for this murder are both his wife and his son, and each produce a different story and own to the crime. The case that Tracy is assigned to, is the apparent suicide of a teenage tribal girl. The investigating officer then, is not convinced about the conclusion and continues to probe it, to dig deeper for more clues and while he does so for most of his life in vain, Tracy takes it up and on inspection and help of the modern forensics deduces it to be a murder.
With two murders- one of which has mixed trails, and the other has clues and evidences lost in time, Tracy is faced with a challenge to bring justice to both victims. Especially to the bright teenage girl, who’s death delves deeper than mere murder.
Unlike most books that keep you in the dark about the guilty right to the end, In the clearing gives you an impression that you already know who is responsible, yet it has you reading on for the way they are brought to justice is quite interesting.
The book is written in a very crisp manner. It doesn’t beat around the bush, and though the plot takes the reader back and forth in time and shuffles between two different cases, the transition is smooth and uncomplicated.
It’s a fast paced murder mystery – actually a double murder mystery set in two different times and completely unrelated, and yet united by a strange thoughtful link.
The way the story swings between two different times, and between two different investigations is pleasant and doesn’t have you confused even for a moment. The characters hold your attention and the writing elevates an already intriguing plot.
The writing is bold, crisp and to the point, and the lead character- Tracy is portrayed with an air of confidence of a recurring lead that will leave a mark on you, making you want to read the others in the Tracy Crosswhite series ( and I am doing just that!).
While a lot of mysteries keep you shooting daggers in the dark, this one makes you believe you got the bulls-eye! You just think you know who the criminals are, and yet you read on to confirm your suspicion only to be surprised. Not to forget the subtle hint at a supernatural presence, its barely there but there nevertheless leaving you a little more inquisitive.
However, the real winner in this book for me is the intense research the Author has put into the geographic study and forensics involved. A fine mystery is one that doesn’t leave loopholes or have flaws in its process, and this book shows how good research elevates a book to new heights! Brownie points to Robert Dugoni for the fantastic in-depth knowledge that he has acquired for this book that is evident in the elaborate forensic advances and geographic details included in the book.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I feel that the lead character could be defined better. Since it is a series with Tracy as the lead I would like to know her more with every book in the series. Maybe the first book has a better portrayal of her, but I believe that every book on her should teach us a little more about her. Oh, and precise and crisp writing leaves little food for thought, hence no quotable quotes.
The only thing that wasn’t very pleasant for me was how one case took the limelight while the other was sidelined. The conclusion to the murder of the man seemed hurried and not well thought of.
All in all, I completely enjoyed In the Clearing. Starting the book with a blank mind and not many expectations (reading crime by Authors you haven’t read before makes you a little skeptical!), I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I latched on to the book and how quickly I was seeking other books by the same Author.
Who do I recommend this to?
Bibliophiles who enjoy crime and mysteries are sure to enjoy this one by Robert Dugoni.