See Her Die
Book two in Melinda Leigh’s new series of mystery/suspense novels featuring Bree Taggert, See Her Die, opens just three weeks after the events of Cross Her Heart. A former Philadelphia detective, Bree’s life underwent a major upheaval when she returned home to the small upstate New York town of Grey’s Hollow – somewhere that holds few pleasant memories for her – in order to investigate the murder of her sister Erin. By the end of the book, Bree has decided to remain in Grey’s Hollow to become the guardian to Erin’s two children, Luke (sixteen) and Kayla (eight) and to take the position of Sheriff, following the departure of the previous holder of the office, whose blatant corruption had been public knowledge but whom nobody had been able to dislodge.
When See Her Die begins, Bree is still struggling to adapt to her new life and responsibilities. She’s not sleeping well (Kayla sometimes has nightmares and has taken to creeping into bed with her at night), she’s worried about Luke, who has become very quiet and incommunicative, she’s not completely sure which of her deputies she can trust, her department is underfunded and understaffed… it’s a long list of problems to sort out all the while she’s working to ensure the safety of everyone in the local community.
A call in the early hours of the morning sees Bree heading out to a local campground that is – supposedly – closed for the winter, following a 911 call from a young woman who says she saw her friend get shot. When Bree and her deputies arrive, there’s no sign of a body or evidence of a shooting – and no sign of the person who made the call, until Bree and one of her deputies enter one of the cabins, where they find a terrified young woman who says her name is Alyssa Vaughan and that her friend Harper was shot out in the woods. With no body or evidence, Bree has to consider the possibility that Alyssa may have made it all up, or have committed the murder herself… but something tells her that while Alyssa is definitely hiding something, that something isn’t murder.
Meanwhile, Bree’s friend, former K-9 handler Matt Flynn, has been asked by his sister Cady to look into the disappearance of Eli Whitney, a student at the university and the grandson of an elderly lady who fosters senior dogs for Cady’s rescue centre. Matt took medical retirement from the Sheriff’s department after he was shot in the hand in the line of duty some three years earlier, and he’s setting up a K-9 training facility – or he would, if his sister didn’t keep filling up his kennels with her rescue dogs! He agrees to ask around to see if he can find out what might have happened to Eli.
Later that day, Bree and her team are back out at the campground, still searching for evidence of a shooting and not finding much – until they turn up a set of footprints and tracks in the snow. At this point, Bree decides to see if they can borrow a K-9 unit from the state police – but it’s nothing doing; all their available K-9s are searching for a missing student. With the light fading and snow threatening, her chief deputy suggests she call in Matt Flynn and Brody (his service dog) – and Bree is just a little conflicted. On the one hand, Matt’s connection to the department is not an easy one (he was shot by a fellow deputy and still suspects it may have been deliberate), but on the other she trusts him, and it would feel great to know someone has her back.
Matt agrees to help, and before long Brody is hot on the trail and leads Bree and Matt to the cracked ice around a boat ramp where, bobbing between long, jagged sheets of ice, is a human hand. The hand belongs to the body of a young man who is unidentifiable due to the damage done to his face, which looks as though it’s been pulverised in an act of brutal rage. Is this the shooter? If it is, they have yet to find the victim. And if it isn’t the shooter, could it be the missing student?
I love watching the way Melinda Leigh sets out what are seemingly different storylines and then slowly pulls them together until they coalesce and we can see how the pieces all fit as part of the larger whole. The plot in See Her Die is complex, clever and well-executed and Bree is a tough, likeable and relatable heroine, a woman who is juggling so many balls in the air that she has no time for a life outside of work and her newly acquired family. I also appreciated the peek into what it takes to run a sheriff’s department in a large but sparsely populated rural area, and felt for Bree as she wondered who among her staff she could really trust.
I enjoyed the story, but it would be remiss of me not to point out that for a book categorised as romantic suspense, the romance here is peripheral at best. Matt is a lovely guy and he and Bree have great chemistry, so the lack of romantic development was a bit of a disappointment – BUT what we do get here is them working together again and I loved watching the professional side of their partnership develop. Matt is such a wonderful support for Bree when she needs it, he’s a cool head in a crisis and, as Bree admits to herself, he’s smart and often sees connections she’s overlooked; they’re a great team, and it definitely seems that things are progressing on the romantic front by the time the book comes to a close.
In spite of the little bit of disappointment I experienced over the lack of romantic progression, I enjoyed See Her Die very much. The principals are likeable, the secondary cast is nicely drawn, the mystery is compelling, and it all adds up to a thoroughly entertaining read. I’ll definitely be back for book three when it’s released in Spring 2021.