If you're a fan of Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder mysteries, you'll want to try J.R. Backlund's debut, Among the Dead. Meet Rachel Carver, former police officer, former agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. She's an investigator who feels an obligation to the victims, to the point of obsession.
After resigning from the SBI when a case ended badly, Rachel is available when her former partner, Danny Braddock, calls. He's now with a sheriff's department in western North Carolina, a small unit with few resources to investigate a recent murder. Danny's boss is willing to hire Rachel. The victim was killed inside his house, with no signs of forced entry. There are no suspects. Rachel signs on, and works with Danny's team so they follow procedures and look for answers in the victim's past. And, then another man is killed. The method is different, but the precise timing, and the lack of other murders in the recent past leads Rachel to suspect the same killer. And, without any clues as to what the two men had in common, there are fears there may be other deaths.
Among the Dead is a fascinating police procedural as Rachel, Danny and the rest of the team track a killer, and study the victims for possible links. Even when they believe they've found their killer, there are unexpected twists. Rachel's skills, her ability to study the victims and dig into the past, are definitely needed in this intense, character-driven story.
It's somewhat graphic. It's violent. But, Among the Dead is a strong debut that introduces an intriguing character. Let's hope Rachel Carver finds her niche in the world of strong female investigators.
J. R. Backlund's website is www.jrbacklund.com
Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683312734 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.