We are celebrating Mystery Month on the RT Daily blog, so we thought it would be fitting to check out the first book in Andrea Kane’s new series starter The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, which introduces the Forensic Instincts team, a crime-fighting trio that works just outside of the law to bring criminals to justice. Their latest case is a race against time as Casey and her crew investigates the kidnapping of young Krissy, the only daughter of a powerful judge and lawyer.
Morgan: Okay, so the story starts off with a parent’s worst nightmare. A young girl named Krissy is kidnapped in broad daylight. No ransom is demanded and false leads just keep piling up. And since Krissy’s high-profile parents are both well-off and well-known, the police, FBI and others are sent in to find the girl.
Whitney: Among those that join the search for Krissy is the private investigative team Forensic Instincts.
Morgan: And while they have a very unfortunate name, you can’t disagree that the Forensic Instincts team gets results.
Whitney: They call their methods “out-of-the-box, creative approaches to solving crimes”. But in reality, they operate within a gray area. What they do isn’t totally illegal, but definitely not entirely legal either.
Morgan: Yet despite their questionable tactics, this private team, led by a woman named Casey (extra points for having a female in charge), works well with the other law enforcement agencies involved in the search. Everyone is much more interested in finding the little girl than in having any particular group taking credit for her return — and isn’t that all we really hope for in these types of situations?
Whitney: Not to say there isn’t any toe-stepping, but overall everyone involved in the search is really dedicated to bringing Krissy home safely.
Morgan: It's doesn't hurt that Casey’s boyfriend is an FBI agent assigned to the case. In some this helps communication between the different groups, but in other ways it is a problem because Hutch works very hard not to let Casey know too much so she won’t put herself in danger.
Whitney: Because of the personal relationships (not to mention the egos) that are involved, I am on the fence about whether or not private teams, like Forensic Instincts, should get involved in these investigations. It just seems like more moving pieces to an already complicated puzzle. What do you think?
Morgan: If it were my kid, I would like to think I would get in whoever was necessary to find him, but I’m not sure a lot of us could afford Casey and her team. They have got to be pretty expensive. You have three very highly trained, technically savvy investigators who are working around the clock. I don’t even want to think how much that bill would be.
Whitney: Although after meeting Casey and her group, I got the feeling that they would have done it for free. The need to ‘catch the bad guy no matter the cost’ runs deep in all of them, especially Casey.
Morgan: All of her cases are personal to Casey and through the course of the story we get to see how her mind works and what her inner motivations are. Casey was inspired to put together this team to catch bad guys. And to do so effectively she has brought together some very dynamic investigators. Casey explains:
“Marc approaches things with an investigative and analytical eye. Ryan is more strategic and technological. I’m all about the psychological, and I tend to go with my gut.”
Casey is book and people smart. Marc is former military and the ‘muscle’ of the group. And Ryan is the hot computer geek. A pretty intriguing team.
Whitney: Marc and Ryan are both so interesting in such different ways — I found it impossible to decide which of them I liked better.
Morgan: I really don’t think you have to choose — I definitely see more FI stories in the future. Especially if they carry out all of their investigations as well as this one. Marc, Ryan and Casey have an almost preternatural ability to suss out criminals, which can be a pretty mixed blessing. I mean they can’t meet someone without immediately becoming suspicious. Does this person want something? Does this person have something to hide?
Whitney: But their suspicions pay off. Within just a matter of hours — or sometimes minutes — they can pretty much tell if a person is innocent or guilty, and of course, act accordingly.
Morgan: It’s funny because when Casey or her team make snap decisions, I don’t mind at all, but it really got to me that the FBI were so quick to profile the unsub (that is “unknown subject” for anyone not in the know). After only a few hours the agents decided that they were looking for a “white male in his thirties, who works with or hangs around children … He’d probably have endured childhood abuse, and be harboring latent anger, which would flare up if anyone threatened to stand between himself and his victim.”
I mean, how could they possibly know all of that?!?
Whitney: Well, considering that the team has to start somewhere, and then alter the profile based on what they learn in their investigation, many of those elements are classic hallmarks of “the typical sex offender”. And in child abduction cases, which are not motivated by a parent who wants custody of the child, sex offenders are the number one suspects.
Morgan: Okay, now you are starting to sound like an FBI profiler! But I get your point. There are the usual suspects to round up. However, the author really turns this on its head because Kane introduces so many possible kidnappers. Everyone from a disgruntled ex-employee to the mob!
Whitney: I kept second guessing the identity of the kidnapper (or kidnappers) depending on what theory you believe. Of which there were so many. It was a mystery reader’s feast!
Morgan: And I think what mystery fans will like the best is how well planned the crime was. This is not a thoughtless act of a bumbling idiot who is easily captured; this abduction is clearly the work of someone motivated to hurt Judge Hope Willis, Krissy’s mom.
Whitney: Ugh, it gives me the shivers to know that not only did the kidnapper take Krissy in broad daylight, but it was done at school and with Krissy’s total trust because dun dun dunnnn ... the kidnapper sneaks into the house to steal Krissy’s favorite toys.
Morgan: And it happens more than once! That’s what I’m saying about a creepy, well-planned crime.
Whitney: Agreed, random violence is scary enough but this whole business of intelligent craziness? That’s it, I am picking up the message that this month’s crime fiction is putting down — having kids is opening yourself to a world of hurt. Between this story and this month’s RT Seal of Excellence winner, Gregg Hurwitz’ You’re Next, which also features a child prominently, I’m convinced, I am never ever having children!
Morgan: Or if you do, you’ll be keeping them under lock and key! But even though Krissy is very well taken care of in a great neighborhood with two loving parents and a devoted nanny, that doesn’t keep her from being taken.
Whitney: Which just makes it that much harder for Hope to deal with the fact that her daughter is gone.
Morgan: And I think we are forgetting perhaps the most eerie part of the story — this is not Hope’s first experience with a kidnapping. When Hope was a child, her twin sister Felicity was snatched out of the girls’ bedroom one night. After years of searching with no signs of Felicity, the case went cold and the family never got closure.
Whitney: I think that some of the most touching scenes in the book are when Hope commiserates with her mother about a crime neither woman should have ever had to experience once, let alone twice … And then to get Krissy’s point of view of what she is going through ... these passages are so sad.
Morgan: Well, we don’t exactly get Krissy’s point of view. We actually hear about her experiences through a psychic. What’s that I said? Yes, this book has a psychic!
Whitney: Claire-voyant! I loved her character. She is on the scene to pick up any “vibes” that she can about Krissy.
Morgan: And all of the while Claire creates friction with the Forensic Instincts’ techno-wiz Ryan.
Whitney: It made sense to me, he’s all ‘logic and reason’ and she’s like ‘whatever, I can pick up flashes of the victim from her possession’ — it’s a classic case of opposites attract!
Morgan: Although I am a total skeptic in real life, I loved learning about how Claire’s abilities figured into solving this mystery. She has “claircognizance” which is “perceiving things without being able to understand or explain how or why, but just accepting that you do.” I thought this added a twist to what could have otherwise been a pretty straightforward procedural plot.
Whitney: Her presence also provides a sensitive element to the team of people researching Krissy’s abduction. I think readers will really resonate with the feelings she expresses.
Morgan: And even without what we would call traditional crime solving skills, Claire plays a huge role in assisting both the FBI as well as Forensic Instincts. Now that I think about it, she has got to be my favorite character in the book.
Whitney: You know who my favorite was? Hero! I am such a softie for the four-legged friends that help solve mysteries.
Morgan: Hero’s not just any dog, he’s a gift from Casey’s boyfriend the FBI agent.
Whitney: And he’s not just any gift. He’s a fully trained human scent evidence dog. A beautiful bloodhound who adds such a great element to the story. Whether he’s helping people track down evidence or simply peeing on Ryan’s shoes (teehee!) he’s another great addition to the Forensic Instincts team.
Morgan: Hero does help solve the crime, but the dog does much more than this. He really shows the reader a personal side to Casey when her boyfriend gives her the dog as a present. It was a real turning point for Casey and her straight-and-narrow FBI guy Hutch.
Whitney: They are at odds most of the time and the gift gives them a bit of peace. But I know romance fans will definitely enjoy the back-and-forths that Casey and Hutch get into, because they find themselves working together on this case — at least as much as the Bureau allows.
Morgan: He and Casey do butt heads because he’s got to follow procedure while she can be a little bit less by-the-book.
Whitney: A little! She breaks and enters, leaves illegal spying devices, lies to get information … rules, schmules.
Morgan: My point exactly! These are the lengths you want the heroes to go to in a great mystery — especially one about a kidnapping.
Whitney: Agreed, and I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!
Next week we are leaving the modern world for an age of lace and mechanics in Devon Monk's Steampunk novel Iron Dead. And for more Mystery Month coverage and your chance to win a five-book prize pack of new releases, click here!