FBI K-9 #3
By Sara Driscoll
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.
Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her. (from Goodreads)
There are not enough adjectives to describe how much I like this novel! It is 3rd in the FBI K-9 series, and the best to date. When Meg and Hawk are out on a search and rescue mission in the aftermath of a hurricane, they come upon a different kind of search and rescue. The change in Meg’s duties makes this a fabulous, heart-rending, satisfying thriller, with a ripped-from-the-headlines feel for two overwhelming challenges in our country today.
FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, are deployed to Virginia Beach in the wake of Hurricane Cole’s destruction on the Atlantic coast. While she and other members of her team hope this is truly a search and rescue mission, it turns into a part rescue, part recovery. Her firefighter and paramedic boyfriend Todd is deployed to help the short-handed paramedic crews. Her sister Cara is dating Washington Post investigative journalist Clay McCord; he is already in North Carolina following the hurricane. Cara remains at home, feeling as if she isn’t contributing to the rescues, but she is caring for her dog and Todd’s as well as helping owners train their dogs.
After navigating the wreckage that includes fires, homes washed away, and power outages, the team Meg is on is sent to Norfolk and Chesapeake. Todd is riding shotgun with her as he will aid the firefighters there. In route, Todd sees a van caught up in the Elizabeth River, tossed on its side and partially submerged. What she sees when she gets into the van begins the rage and horror that fuels her work for the next several days. It appears to have been a sex trafficker’s van. Two young girls died, strapped in and unable to free themselves from wristbands to help each other. One wristband is broken, several others empty; Meg assumes that at least one if not several girls are out on the run.
The girls that Hawk leads Meg to, and the horrifying stories Emma tells after rescue from the Great Dismal Swamp, lead her into a world that she wished didn’t exist. But it does – and she is temporarily under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Walter Van Cleave, who has worked human trafficking cases for nearly a decade without losing heart for those in need. Emma receives comfort from Hawk and builds a rapport with Meg. As a result, she will help the FBI take down the people in charge of the trafficking ring, but only if Meg and Hawk stay with her through interviews. Meg learns more than she wanted to know about trafficking, especially of pre-teens and young teens. She and Van Cleave find the assistance of Clay and his many contacts in this ugly quagmire invaluable if they give him an exclusive story when the case is brought to fruition, as he and Meg have worked before. Todd also proves to be a valuable member of the team that includes Hawk, Meg’s second heart dog, and Cara, whose ability to solve complex puzzles is a priceless asset. The challenges they face includes a group of influential men in the area who just might not be who they seem, yet finding the top of the pyramid is a challenge they might not meet in time to prosecute the little guys on the way.
Meg is the most three-dimensional of the novel; I enjoy getting to know her more in each book. She is a strong, courageous woman who can feel the fury of injustices and have empathy for the victims she and Hawk find. When receiving accolades, she is humble enough to deflect them to Hawk as being the real hero. I think she has a winning match with Todd; while we continue to learn about him, his heart is evident throughout. Cara’s appearances are few but mighty. Journalist Clay McCord is someone well-suited to Cara. Their love for dogs and his work with Meg on other cases brought Cara and Clay together, and I look forward to getting to see more of Cara in future novels. We learn a little about Emma throughout the novel, but she has many wounds from her family and the traffickers to heal from. I hope we get to learn more about her, also.
This is a breathtaking, fast-paced novel. The plot is tight and finely-executed with twists that frequently change the course of the investigation. I was invited in from the first page and my attention held throughout. I appreciate that Meg is not a character unaffected by her work; noting that she has a bit of PTSD when hearing and seeing a drone searching out survivors makes her more human. I also appreciate how much the story became so much more than working the aftermath of a hurricane. Not only does it show the many facets of rescue or recovery after a natural disaster, but it shows the needs of the first responders. We see how men, women, and children get trapped in sex and slave labor trafficking and how its perpetrators are in all levels of society. This is very well-written, and it is evident that the author has done extensive research. I highly recommend Storm Rising to everyone who has appreciated this series so far, those who find search and rescue K-9 officers/ agents interesting, and thrillers about the FBI and some of their specialized work. I can’t wait for their next adventure!