Fans of Robert Dugoni’s novels — and it takes no detective to deduce that those number in the legions — are beating their own paths to the suspense-master’s seventh Tracy Crosswhite book, “A Cold Trail,” since its Feb. 4 publication.
As they should. Although the book can feel at times more a meandering stroll on a lukewarm day than the hot pursuit of a cold trail, this is the novel that ties the bows on several threads that have been fraying for six novels and counting.
Dugoni’s directed exposition can at times be overbearing — “Tracy needed to put Heather Johansen to rest — and Kimberly Armstrong as well — if the town were truly to survive. She felt no personal compulsion to put Jason Mathews to rest, but his death seemed to be the linchpin to solving what had happened, and if she wanted to close the book on the darkest chapter in the town’s history, she had to put him to rest as well.” — but fans of the series will not flinch. Tracy Crosswhite has a depth that transcends the average character, with readers becoming more and more involved in her life and maturation with each succeeding story.
“A Cold Trail” (Thomas & Mercer) puts the homicide detective back in Cedar Grove for the first time since she had witnessed the incarceration of her sister’s killer. Battling symptoms of post-traumatic stress — and not infrequently, her husband, Dan, who is representing a merchant feeling threatened by the town’s revitalization — Crosswhite is yet convinced by local law officers to investigate a cold case murder of a young woman.
Under such conditions, the mental and physical comparisons to her sister’s murder threaten to erupt at any time, covering Crosswhite, her family and a decades-old conspiracy with the detritus.
But by the end, Dugoni ably fits the pieces together as the novel comes to order in the fullness of a court drama penned by one of fiction’s best legal raconteurs.
It is here, in the jury box, that readers will finally judge this sometimes-uneven work on the merits of the author’s story. The verdict will not be unanimous, but Dugoni will be vindicated in the end.