While the cover in this third novel is not quite as striking as the other two, neither do Nicolette (Nic) and Cassandra (Cassy) Rivers' dominating personalities come through as strongly in their younger red-headed cousin, new Deputy Jolie Murdoch, although Jolie can get fiery when sufficiently provoked. Between her father, the former sheriff, and the knock-out Australian who purposefully fought with American marines (Xavier Hartmann) Jolie Murdoch is finding plenty to get upset about.
While pursuing a missing teenage girl after a parade in town, Jolie discovers Xavier Hartmann, former marine and current bartender at the Kildeer Pub, near a dead man with his blood on Xavier's clothing. Not only is Xavier unsure of why or how he got near the dead man, he realizes his prosthetic leg is not attached. Due to an IED which killed his brothers-in-arms, he also suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and the onset of a migraine threatens him as he attempts to figure out what's happened. He realizes he just had another blackout and can't be sure he didn't kill the man lying on the ground in front of him. Because of how it looks, he's the number one suspect in the dead guy's murder. Before he can remember anything, he winds up in the hospital and the sister and brother no one knew he had show up to make sure the doctor knows his condition.
The dead man is the missing girl's derelict father, and although circumstantial evidence makes Xavier the obvious person-of-interest in his murder, neither Jolie nor the sheriff and Detective O'Conlan (Nic's husband) really believe he did it.
During the course of the investigation, Jolie discovers the similarities between this young girl's disappearance and a cold case of a missing girl handled by her father when he was the sheriff. The tension and tempers flare during her investigation, and the attraction between Xavier and Jolie flames.
The mystery and suspense of both the murder investigation and the connection between the two missing girls force Jolie to see her brother who's serving a long sentence in jail. His bizarre clues to the previous missing girl compel Jolie to take a hard look at the cold case honing her innate investigative skills which she's doubted and puts her in danger.
The dual meaning of the title is revealed as Xavier's secret is exposed and Jolie solves the cases.
Jolie begins the story as a timid, somewhat confused rookie but finishes with passion and panache.
I love Winter's stories, writing, and character development, but I'd prefer less profanity because she doesn't need it to get her points across. She wraps up her books neatly with satisfying endings after some treacherous and suspenseful events which leave her strong protagonists better for their experiences even after being terrified.
Recommend this well done series.
Father, please continue to give Winter more stories and bless her time set apart for writing them. Keep her safe and inspired. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.