Leave No Trace
FBI K-9 #5
By Sara Driscoll
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 partner are heading south where it’s hunting season. But this time the prey is human.
One arrow through the heart could be a tragic hunting accident. A second one, within days, looks more like a crime. That’s when Meg Jennings and Brian Foster of the FBI’s Forensic Canine Unit head to Georgia to investigate. With their dogs Hawk and Lacey, Meg and Brian are enlisted to follow the scent of a killer. At first, nothing seems to connect the two victims–a county commissioner and State Patrol officer. But the blood sport around the southern town of Blue Ridge is just beginning.
As the body count rises, the compound bow killer becomes even more elusive, appearing and vanishing like a ghost. However, with each new slaying Meg is beginning to suspect the grim design that’s escalating in the shadows. At its heart, a tragic event that reaches back nearly two centuries in Georgia’s history is now turning Blue Ridge into a hunting ground. But as Meg gets closer to solving the puzzle, the closer she is to stepping into the crosshairs of an elusive murderer with deadly aim, and motives as deep and dark as the woods . . . (from Goodreads)
When opening a new FBI K-9 novel, I can count on it being action-packed, heart-pounding adventure from beginning to end. Leave No Trace lives up to, and exceeds, expectations as Meg and K-9 partner Hawk, along with teammate Brian and his K-9 partner Lacey investigate a new, possibly serial, killer in Georgia and Tennessee. The characters are so well defined and realistic that they leap off the pages. The setting is fascinating, sending me to the internet to learn more about the terrifying place of one of the searches. I also appreciated learning about the background of the Native American tribes in the area. The mystery is quite a challenge, and if not for one detail I overlooked, I might have figured out sooner who the killer was.
Meg and her boyfriend, Todd, a firefighter, have been seeking a place to move into together for several months. Meg and her sister Cara have had a home together for several years that meets their needs and that of their dogs; moving in with Todd will send Cara looking for a place she can afford on her own. Cara and her boyfriend, Clay, an investigative reporter for the Washington Post, are not at the point of making a commitment and she refuses to rush into anything to afford a residence.
We open to Meg and Brian going to investigate an unusual murder in Georgia. A state police officer was killed with an arrow designed to kill in a particularly gruesome manner. It is turkey and bow hunting season, but this is not the result of a hunting accident. It is hauntingly familiar, as another man died a few days ago in the same manner. It is also why the local FBI agent has called for their assistance. When determining where the shot was taken from, it is clear the archer is an expert. We are given an insider’s view of how the dogs work together to find and follow the scent of the killer, but eventually lost the scent when the shooter probably left in a waiting car.
The first man killed seemed to have no connection to the state police officer. He was of the county board of commissioners, involved with the building of a new dam for the TVA project. Building the dam would require either purchasing, for pennies on the dollar, or taking eminent domain of land that had been in the owners’ families for generations. It is also land that the Cherokee tribe had hoped to regain for their tribe.
Only two days later, another man is killed with a similar arrow; this one was overseeing the repair to the five-mile flume of a dam across the state line in Tennessee. When they lost the trail of the shooter again, Meg obtained permission for her and Brian to stay locally until they can get the shooter, as they are losing too much time flying back and forth when they could be on the ground searching.
I enjoy learning more about the characters in each novel. Watching their actions, and for Meg, following her thought processes, brings the fully human dimension together with her knowledge and experience. Meg and Brian are the ultimate professionals when it comes to tracking down the bad guys. Meg’s mind is always working, trying to understand how the killer’s mind works. Both have their normal, human fears and concerns. Brian understands one of Meg’s triggers and helps her compensate for it. They also love their dogs, going to any length to keep them safe.
There are many scenes that one may not be able to close the book on and go to sleep immediately after reading. The fire that Todd was trapped in, tracking the killer over the flume where one misstep would be deadly, avoiding warning shots from the killer, facing the elements and wildlife, and severe injury to one of the K-9’s kept this reader rivetted. K-9’s and their handlers in law enforcement around the country do not have easy jobs. They operate in sometimes harsh, frightening conditions, risking their lives and those of their K-9’s to serve and protect. The killer was elusive, and a real challenge to identify. The resolution was very satisfying with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend this, and earlier books in the series!