Book Review: Leave No Trace by Sara Driscoll
Though this is book 5 in this series about the dogs and handlers of the FBI’s Forensic Canine Unit, you won’t have any trouble following what’s going on if you join the series at this point… I didn’t! And I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Meg Jennings and her Labrador Hawk, the focal pair here, as they are called into track a killer who uses bow and arrow to hunt human prey.
I was nervous early on when some Cherokee references were made, that the author might be about to fall into an unfortunate trap of making a Native person the villain, but was pleasantly surprised that it went quite another way and, in fact, Meg and the other law enforcement personnel she was working with showed great empathy for the plight of the Native tribespeople and respect for their history. With a gay character prominent (Meg’s human partner Brian) and the racism faced by a Latinx cop working in the Appalachians referenced, this is a diverse and delightful read… even if it is a struggle at the moment to like stories painting law enforcement in a positive light, canine units are definitely the exception.
The only trap I think the author might have fallen into is putting a bit Too Much Drama in. It read like the Perils of Penelope Pitstop occasionally, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the Appalachians are the most perilous landscape in the world… Meg and colleagues face attacks from a bear, a cougar, a rattlesnake, coyotes and humans, not to mention almost drowning and then getting lost in the wilderness. It got to feel like a bit much after a while.
There were plenty of suspects initially, but once it started getting narrowed down I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was, and I was correct. It’s not telegraphed too early, but it doesn’t come completely out of left field either; I think the author did quite a nice job of laying the trail of breadcrumbs to the reveal. I’d have liked to hear a bit more about what happened after everything was resolved, about the killer’s motives and thought process, because while Meg and company did speculate, we didn’t get to hear it directly from the culprit or see the outcome of any interviews, or hear a confession, and there were definitely things that didn’t add up as far as I was concerned.
Overall, I’d give this four stars; I liked the characters a lot and the mystery was well constructed, but I’d have liked to see a bit less Drama and a bit more criminology.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.