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  • Caitlyn Lynch

Book Review: Hide and Seek by Mary Burton

I’m completely bemused that none of the other reviews I’ve looked at for this book seem to have picked up on the absolutely ENORMOUS plot hole I noticed. In fact, I was so bemused by it I went back and read the sections concerned several times, and then went googling to check I was correct in what I thought was the case.

DNA taken in criminal cases (such as rapes) is run, in the US, against a database called CODIS, maintained by the FBI at a national level (NDIS) since 1998 in order to assist in connecting cases which take place in different states.

Now, all the action in this book takes place in one small town, with three rapes and one murder (to start) all linked by DNA. But later on, murders in other states are linked by searches through ViCAP, which is basically a search for similarities in method of attack, and THEN by DNA. Which... does not compute. DNA in murder cases would AUTOMATICALLY be run against the NDIS, and as soon as three cases in different states are flagged, that makes it serial killer territory, which means the FBI should have been all over this perp long ago. The second the DNA from these cases hit NDIS, there should have been a serial killer task force crawling all over it. Especially with over 40 cases eventually linked. Considering we got quite a bit of insight into the killer’s psyche, and their complete disregard for caution when it came to safeguarding their DNA, none of this made any sense at all.

One commentor remarked that they feel this is based on the Night Stalker case somewhat, and that does feel right considering the cases covered in this story, but the Night Stalker was well before the NDIS was implemented, so DNA wasn’t a factor in catching him. Brought into the present day, it just doesn’t stack up because the evidence would have the FBI and police from half a dozen states crawling all over the case. The NCAVC, the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, is an entire FBI division devoted to spotting just this kind of pattern and providing assistance to local law enforcement agencies in tracking down the offenders.

I’m not even American, and I was pretty sure this was the case just from watching some TV crime dramas. No matter how well written the rest of the story is (and it’s pretty good), if the author wants me to buy into her story, she needs to get critical details like this right. Otherwise, I just can’t take her seriously as an author of crime fiction.

Two stars and a big black mark for getting something pretty darn critical to how serial crimes are solved in the US today wrong.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.

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