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Close to Home


Close to Home

When I finished the first Tracy Crosswhite mystery in December 2014, I instantly fell in love with the fierce but emotion-driven detective and her colorful colleagues. The stories felt as though they were ripped from the headlines, but they were never predictable or voyeuristic. Robert Dugoni’s writing was fast-paced, his descriptions were crisp, and I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of him before. If you had told me then that I would be reading and reviewing the fifth Tracy Crosswhite book less than three short years later, I would have jumped for joy.

Dugoni has never shied away from current events, and in CLOSE TO HOME he crafts an intricate mystery that blends elements of the opioid crisis, racial violence and military justice into a near-unsolvable case. Never one to stereotype his characters, the detectives are also struggling with issues in their personal lives, including fertility, divorce and grief. Of course, no case or obstacle is too complicated for Tracy Crosswhite and her team.

At the start of CLOSE TO HOME, D’Andre, a 12-year-old African American boy, is viciously run down while walking home from basketball practice. Worried about prompting an uprising given the political climate, the Seattle Police Department is quick to get involved in what normally would be a closed case. Longtime readers will be surprised by the speed at which Tracy and her team track down a believable suspect --- normally we are given several leads and red herrings. But when the suspect turns out to be an active-duty serviceman at the local naval base, the case takes on a whole new world of complications.

"Although I enjoyed IN THE CLEARING and THE TRAPPED GIRL, CLOSE TO HOME is the first Tracy Crosswhite book that has affected me as much as MY SISTER’S GRAVE.... I did not believe that Dugoni could weave together so many topics, but he does so expertly; not one line is out of place."

Because the main suspect in the hit and run, Lazlo, is a member of the Navy, the Navy asserts prosecutorial control and the case is transferred to them. Their reasoning for taking control of the case is weak, and Tracy fears that the African American community will accuse them of whitewashing. Unfortunately, she cannot figure out what is going on either, and struggles to comfort D’Andre’s grieving mother.

It is here that Dugoni introduces a new (and hopefully permanent) character: Lieutenant Leah Battles, who has been assigned to defend Lazlo in military court. Battles is not exactly an adversary for Tracy, but she can certainly hold her own against Tracy’s quick mind, and the two soon develop a well-balanced, intelligent rapport, even when they disagree. When key evidence goes missing, however, the two will have to team up to find justice for D’Andre, find out who is tampering with evidence and keep racial tensions at bay --- all while fighting to be taken seriously as women in male-dominated fields. I never believed that Dugoni’s series was missing a female-friendship element, but after seeing Tracy and Battles together, I think Dugoni has made his series even better, and I hope he continues to create strong, intelligent female characters to stand with (or against) Tracy.

At the same time, a second, less complicated investigation is also taking place: Del Castigliano, one of Tracy’s fellow homicide detectives (and a fan-favorite in the series), has lost his niece to the heroin epidemic. It is no secret that the opioid crisis in America has intensified, and Dugoni does not shy away from discussing its convoluted history, beginning with the medical community and ending with the legalization of marijuana. It is clear that Dugoni has done his research --- perhaps more in this book than in any other --- and his description of the timeline of events is not only thorough but illuminating.

Longtime readers will love seeing a softer side of Del as he cares for his grieving sister and her two young boys. His steadfast dedication to both finding his niece’s dealer and bringing his sister back to reality is heartwarming and adds a new layer to the series as a whole.

Of course, CLOSE TO HOME would not be a Tracy Crosswhite book without giving readers a look at the detective’s personal life. Happily married to Dan, Tracy is now desperately trying to conceive, although at 43, her chances are close to none. The murder of a 12-year-old highlights just how important motherhood is to her, and she soon begins fertility treatments. This theme of motherhood is one that rings through each storyline and ties them all together with the compassion and heart that Dugoni has demonstrated in earlier installments of the series.

While D’Andre’s mother grieves and Tracy struggles to conceive, Del meets many mothers of young heroin addicts, all of whom immediately believe that the presence of a police detective means that their sons and daughters have turned up dead. When prompted, many of them report their children living through multiple overdoses, but finding themselves at a loss for what comes after. Although Dugoni has explored sibling relationships in previous books, this is the first time he has touched upon motherhood, and I am happy to report that he is successful in unpacking the emotions and woes that come with it.

Although I enjoyed IN THE CLEARING and THE TRAPPED GIRL, CLOSE TO HOME is the first Tracy Crosswhite book that has affected me as much as MY SISTER’S GRAVE. Tracy and her colleagues have learned a lot over the past three years, and Dugoni has expertly fleshed them out and developed them throughout each book, but they have reached a new level of camaraderie and dedication here. I did not believe that Dugoni could weave together so many topics, but he does so expertly; not one line is out of place. I absolutely loved hearing more about Del, and I hope that he will focus on a different supporting character in the next installment.

Tracy Crosswhite (and the Seattle police force) is at her peak in CLOSE TO HOME, and I cannot wait to see where Dugoni takes her next.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 22, 2017

Close to Home
by Robert Dugoni

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1542045010
  • ISBN-13: 9781542045018