“The Trapped Girl” is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, and while most of the books in this series focus on one case to be solved, so you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I always recommend that you do. Dugoni doesn’t overly explain or refamiliarize the reader with certain characters, so you’ll miss some of those nuances if you don’t read these books in order. That being said, much like the rest of Tracy’s books, this one is full of twists and turns, some of which I saw coming, some of which I didn’t. We start by finding a woman in a crab pot. Her identification is hard to decern given the state of the body, and made even more complicated by the fact that the woman has had extensive surgery to hide what she looks like. The mystery starts off complex, and only gets more so as the case unravels. Who is this woman? Why was she running, and from who? And is the person she was running from her murderer? The thing I always enjoy about Dugoni’s crime and mystery books is that it feels like reading an actual police case. As someone who loves true crime, I find that format best for stories like these, but it can read a bit dry, a bit too bland, for some people.
I will admit that this book takes a bit to grab you. I was never bored by it, but, at first, the case seemed too simple. You learn later that was by design so the twists the case takes later make it all the more thrilling; I will say that come the last third of the story, I could not put the book down! But part of what made it a bit harder to get into the story is that you get “Jane Doe’s” perspective. The story switches from its normal 3rd person POV to 1st person for those chapters. The idea being that you can follow along “in real time” with what happened to the victim as Tracy and her team start piecing the mystery together. I wasn’t a fan of those chapters all that much, so when the book moved away from that style, let’s just say I wasn’t mad about it.
Dugoni doesn’t spend much time on character building or anything like that, the focus is primarily the case and the mystery around that. You get some with Tracy as she finally gets to a place where she is ready to get back the life she once had before her sister’s disappearance and brutal murder. You will also experience exquisite rage every time Nolasco is on the page. He’s one of those infuriating characters that is so perfect to hate. But, otherwise, you don’t get much on the detectives. Del and Faz still serve as a stereotypical comic relief, but at least the characters are self-aware of that so… that’s good? But because the characters aren’t complex, it’s easy to revisit them after long absences as well, as there isn’t much to remember about them. Which is… good? I didn’t mind it in this kind of genre to be honest, but I know others can find that boring. In fact, the only thing that bothered me about Dugoni’s writing this time is that the female characters all seemed to be a bit too concerned with weight and getting fit. For some characters it makes sense, but when every female character that is introduced seems to have this fixation… That’s where I have the problem.
This mystery is such a slow burn that, at first, it does seem kind of boring, so I didn’t think I’d rate this book all that highly. But I really enjoyed the twist the story took, how it focuses on the darkest sides of greed, and I liked watching how Tracy and Kins broke down the theory of the case together. There were also some very tender moments between Tracy and Dan that helped break up an otherwise dark story. Still, the beginning did start a bit lackluster for my tastes, and I did get a skivvy feeling when it came to weight and appearance of the female characters, so this gets 3.5 stars from me. But even with the slow and rather bland start, I was able to finish this book in a few days and am looking forward to my next case with Tracy Crosswhite!
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