I have this theory that if an author starts his/her career writing romance novels, he/she will be housed in the romance section for the rest of their literary lives. The possible exceptions to this are Sandra Brown and Danielle Steel, and I think that’s because they’re so successful, that they can just hire a team of brownies to go to every brick and mortar retailer in the world and re-shelve their books where they want.
It’s almost like once an author has dipped her toe into the torrid, smutty world of romance, the literary community won’t let her out. “You are condemned to hangout over there! With the smart…funny…literary community who sometimes make cock jokes and generally have a really healthy attitude regarding sex and gender equality…er….”
Joke’s on you, guys.
I found The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane in the romance section of my local bookstore, and assumed it was a romantic suspense. I enjoyed this book, but it is not, in my opinion, a romantic suspense novel. It is a mystery/thriller with some romantic elements and a few mild sex scenes. The romance, such as it is, takes up less than a quarter of the book, and could be separated from the mystery without impacting the plot. The hero and heroine don’t need to learn to trust each other to survive, etc. In fact, there really is no hero and heroine in this book; instead The Girl Who Disappeared Twice has a really excellent, large cast of characters.
If you like shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, you’ll probably really like this book. The Girl Who Disappeared Twice has an ensemble cast, each an expert in their own respective field, and each needed to solve the mystery and rescue a little girl.
Forensic Instincts is an elite, specialized, private crime solving team. The book opens with the team taking out a serial rapist. The founder and leader of the group is Casey Woods, a behavioral analyst. She’s partnered up with Marc Deveraux an ex Navy SEAL, and Ryan McKay, a tech wizard. All of them are the best at what they do. All of them are unrealistically attractive. I chuckled when I read about Ryan, who is also an extreme sports enthusiast (naürlich):
Besides his six-pack abs, Ryan was tall and broad shouldered and boasted those smoldering Black Irish looks that made women drool. The ironic part was that the gushing types and the lavish attention-givers irked the crap out of him. In fact, the very few women Ryan found the time for, and cared to pursue, were strong, independent and unimpressed with his physical attributes and accomplishments.
So he's unreasonably attractive and talented, but doesn't like women who notice he's unreasonably attractive and talented. Gotcha.
Anyway, they’ve just busted a serial rapist (and Marc punched him in the nuts for good measure) and are anticipating a little time off when Casey gets the call about another case. Family Court Judge Hope Willis is desperate. Her little girl, Krissy, was abducted after school. Both she and her husband (a defense attorney) have amassed plenty of enemies in their careers, making the case all the more critical to solve quickly. She calls Casey, knowing Forensic Instincts has the best track record out there.
The mystery in this book is spine-tingling good. Krissy was supposed to get a ride home with another mom after school, but when a woman who looks just like Hope, driving a car just like Hope’s, and with Krissy’s stuffed panda, shows up to pick her up, Krissy jumps in the car and is taken. Making the case extra special creepy is the fact that the panda was on Krissy’s bed when she left for school, and the nanny never saw anyone enter the home to steal it.
When no ransom call comes in, Casey knows they are dealing with another motive for the kidnapping. Forensic Instincts works closely with the local police and the FBI to try and bring Krissy home.
Kane does a great job building twists and turns into the mystery, providing the reader with lots of possible suspects: there is the nanny, who seems to be making secret phone calls, a former employee with an axe to grind, Hope’s long estranged father with mob connections…. Every character in this book, right down to Hope’s husband, is a suspect, and I love that. I really didn't know where the mystery was going to go next.
Then there’s the twist to end all twists (and it’s not a spoiler; it’s addressed early on). Hope used to have a twin sister Felicity. Felicity was kidnapped from the bedroom she shared with Hope when she was only six years old. The family has long assumed she is dead, but now that they know a woman who looks just like Hope abducted Krissy from school… It seems the key to finding Krissy might be solving an abduction that happened 32 years earlier.
As the mystery heats up additional characters (and future Forensic Instincts members) are added. There is Hero, the retired search and rescue dog. There is also Claire, an intuitive (aka psychic) the police are utilizing. Sparks fly between Claire and Ryan, setting them up for a romance later in the series, I believe.
Casey’s own love interest is involved, her sometimes lover, SSA Kyle “Hutch” Hutchinson of the BAU. I snort-laughed when I read about Hutch. Criminal Minds fans will know that the leader of the team is SSA Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner. It was like Kane lifted him right out of the series, except he gets laid more in this book, I think.
Somewhere in the grueling pace of the investigation, Hotch—er, Hutch—and Casey find time for the sweet, sweet lovin’. Even I was feeling exhausted as I read about the team members working long hours to find Krissy before calling it quits for a few hours rest in the dead of night. The thought of spending those hours having fulfilling, joyful sex while in the middle of an exhausting, emotionally fraught case seemed almost comical. I get it that these people compartmentalize their emotions, and maybe Casey’s main-lining Red Bull, but someday I’d like to see a romantic suspense or thriller heroine stop the hero at the door and say “Dude, I need a good cry and like 12 hours of sleep. GTFO.”
Despite some of the silliness inherent to the genre, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t what I was shopping for, but I was pleasantly surprised anyway. It’s got a large cast of interesting characters, a hint of romance, and lots of excellent mystery. I’m looking forward to the next two books in the series, The Line Between Here and Gone and The Stranger You Know. The Forensics Instincts series has the potential to appeal to a large audience. Hopefully Kane doesn’t add a character named Leroy Fibbs, a curmudgeonly NCIS agent, but if she does, I know what I’m getting my mom for Christmas.