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A Cold Trail


A Cold Trail

Reuniting with the fan-favorite protagonist who earned him scores of new and voracious readers, author Robert Dugoni returns with the seventh(!) book in his Tracy Crosswhite series. Though fans have grown and developed with Tracy, A COLD TRAIL finds her tackling a new case altogether: motherhood. Adapting to parenthood is one thing, but doing so in the same town where her own sister was abducted and murdered is entirely another. Add to that a new case that throws the town’s entire history into question, and you have the makings of a perfect Robert Dugoni thriller: a fast-paced plot, a sensitive understory and a kick-ass main character who is ready to tackle it all.

When we reunite with Tracy, she and her husband, Dan, are staying in their hometown, Cedar Grove, while waiting for their Seattle home to be renovated to accommodate their growing family --- namely baby Daniella. The setting is not an easy one for Tracy; although she has good memories of her youth, they are all marred by the murder of her younger sister, Sarah, and the subsequent suicide of her beloved father. The man charged with killing Sarah never seemed like the best fit to Tracy, and although she was able to solve the case several years later in MY SISTER’S GRAVE, a lot of the town still sees Tracy as a nuisance, someone who left for a big city and only returns to stir up drama and chaos.

One of her only cheerleaders is Roy Calloway, the former sheriff who retired after a dangerous encounter with a criminal left him with a terrible limp. When Tracy and Dan run into Roy, she is shocked to see a five-pointed star fixed to his lapel. Why would he be back behind the sheriff’s desk, and what happened to the new sheriff, Finlay Armstrong? Though Roy is subtle enough, his message is clear: he has a case, and he wants Tracy’s assistance.

"Dugoni can truly do it all, and A COLD TRAIL is him at the height of his talents. I have a renewed excitement for this series, and I cannot wait to see where it goes next."

The next day, Tracy visits Roy at the police department and learns of three murders that once seemed random but now appear to be painfully connected: Heather Johansen, an 18-year-old who was murdered in 1993; Jason Matthews, a retired criminal defense lawyer hired to look into Heather's death who was killed in a mysterious “hunting accident”; and Kimberly Armstrong, a journalist who was writing a book about Heather’s murder and was killed in a sudden and shocking housefire. Even more stunning, Kimberly’s husband, Finlay, once dated Heather, leading locals to wonder if perhaps Heather stumbled onto a clue that would tie Finlay to the decades-old murder. Armed with an explanation for Roy’s return to the force and a case that seems eerily reminiscent of the one that cost her her sister, Tracy knows she cannot turn away from this investigation.

Back at home, Tracy and Dan are settling into parenthood smoothly, though they both suffer from control issues. Knowing full well the dangers of the world, Tracy is hesitant to hire a nanny and is testing out a young Irish woman named Therese. Dan is struggling with the knowledge that his wife and now mother of his child will eventually have to return to work, putting her life --- and his daughter’s future --- at stake every day. This only adds to their tension, with Dan refusing to support Tracy and Tracy unable to turn away from a case that so closely mirrors the one that changed her family forever.

Compounding Dan’s stress is a new case he is handling as a lawyer representing a local business owner in Cedar Grove. Dan believes that the current local government is abusing its constituents by forcing them to leave their businesses and buying up the land to turn absurd profits. Tracy argues that it's all for the greater good --- after all, downtown Cedar Grove looks better than ever --- but Dan worries about the honest, hardworking people he grew up with and the ways their town is changing around them.

As Tracy and Dan work on their seemingly disparate cases, odd ties begin cropping up between them, leading them to wonder if there is a conspiracy lurking beneath Cedar Grove’s wholesome exterior. As Tracy gets closer to the truth, it becomes obvious that someone out there does not want her investigating the case --- perhaps the same person who set up Finlay for his wife’s murder. With a new baby at home, Tracy must straddle the thin line between doing her job and protecting her own family. But how can she think of her loved ones when three bodies have stacked up and no one has paid the price? On the other hand, knowing what happened to her own sister, how can she let danger come so close to her family yet again?

Weaving pitch-perfect pacing with plenty of heart, Dugoni gives us yet another strong, thought-provoking installment in this series --- and perhaps one of my favorites yet. You may wonder how he keeps his plots fresh and maintains his readers’ love of Tracy. I don’t have the answer, but with his terrific writing, application of real-world issues and cases that seem ripped from the headlines, Dugoni makes it all seem easy. He effortlessly juggles police procedural themes with more heartfelt ones like motherhood and grief, all the while managing to push Tracy to new limits in every book --- both emotionally and professionally. Another major plus is that readers get to see much more of Dan than ever before. Although his case does eventually dovetail into Tracy’s, Dugoni lets him carry a large portion of the book on his own, and I was delighted to see more of their relationship and the traits that make him such a good match for one of my favorite ladies in literature.

While these books technically can be read as stand-alones, I recommend reading at least A STEEP PRICE before delving into A COLD TRAIL. Tracy has grown so much in these last two books that it would seem a disservice not to go on this journey with her, even though it isn't required. I must admit that when Tracy began thinking of motherhood, I worried that Dugoni was being too ambitious. How could he write police procedurals so well and then turn to something as intimate and inherently feminine as motherhood? I am beyond glad to admit that I was wrong; Dugoni can truly do it all, and A COLD TRAIL is him at the height of his talents. I have a renewed excitement for this series, and I cannot wait to see where it goes next.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 28, 2020

A Cold Trail
by Robert Dugoni

  • Publication Date: February 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1542093228
  • ISBN-13: 9781542093224