“In The Clearing” is the third book in the Tracy Crosswhite series and while each of these books is its own self-contained mystery, where you can kind of pick up anywhere in the series and not be lost, book two was best following book one due to the nuances in the story that carried over and affected book two's plot. Book three breaks that mold. Unlike books one and two, there are no elements from the previous books that make an appearance in this story that you’d be confused by. Dugoni does a nice recap of everything that has brought Tracy to this point, so if you read this book out of order, you’ll be fine. This story follows Tracy as she endeavors to solve a cold case that followed a friend’s father to his grave, with something about the case always nagging at him. Tracy agrees to look into it for her friend, and embarks on a forty year old crime that reminds her of her sister’s own disappearance and death. Unfortunately, that was the problem I had with this particular book in the series, it felt like a story I had already read.
I think Dugoni is a fabulous writer, I love his crime-drama series and the amount of research he puts into his books. I love that Tracy is a believable badass older woman who is still in touch with her sexuality, and not in a way that makes me roll my eyes, either. But the first two books in the Tracy Crosswhite series were phenomenal, probably making this book feel all the more less so because of how great the first two were. The cold case wasn’t all that interesting to be honest, it was a terrible crime but I wasn’t all that surprised by the outcome like I was in previous books. Dugoni is best at his believable twist endings, and this ending I saw from a mile away. The other case that Tracy works on-and-off when she returns to her day job could have been more interesting, but this story barely focuses on it, and then when it gets wrapped up, it wraps up in a way that felt unsatisfying because you never really see much of the detective work going into it, it was just a hunch that played out. Needless to say, the high standard of work I had come to expect from Dugoni wasn’t as present in the secondary case.
This wasn’t a bad story, it just felt a little flat compared to the others. If I had read it on its own… who knows? I may feel a bit differently, or I might be even more disappointed, who’s to say? I enjoy Tracy tackling multiple cases at once, even if one is a cold case, but this cold case just wasn’t all that thrilling. I was never fearful for Tracy’s life, and everything about it just felt too methodical and, frankly, unsurprising. It’s still a great deal better than most of the other books in this genre, but just know that this is probably the “weakest” in the series, especially as the next book sounds like Tracy is back doing what she does best. Because this was the least interesting book in the series, but still decent overall, I’m giving it 3 stars but looking forward to reading the next in the series!
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