No Man’s Land
FBI K-9 #4
By Sara Driscoll
Author’s website: jenjdanna.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue dog are
on the trail of a killer hiding where others fear to tread…
For Meg Jennings and her K-9 companion, Hawk, exploring the ruins of a deserted building is an exciting way to sharpen their skills without the life-or-death stakes they face as part of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team. But deep in the echoing rooms of an abandoned asylum, Hawk finds the body of an elderly woman. The victim couldn’t have made her way into the derelict building on her own. Before forty-eight hours pass, Meg learns of more cases of elders found dead in neglected urban structures.
There’s not enough evidence to link the deaths–yet. But Meg scents a pattern, and when she gets word of another senior gone missing, she and Hawk don’t hesitate. Meg is sure a murderer is hunting the elderly, and she can prove it if she can just find a connection. It will take the expert coordination of her whole team, along with help from Clay McCord and Todd Webb, to uncover the means, let alone a motive. And to stop someone who has operated in the dark for so long, Meg will need to risk more than she has to give.
This mystery is SO good! I learned a bit about the urbex – urban exploration – the culture of going into building complexes that have been abandoned or under very limited use. Each chapter opens with a term and definition used in urbex that contributes to the chapter. The mystery itself is unique; this reader could never have come up with the motive or bad guy! There are scenes that quite literally took my breath away. I was happy to see the characters from earlier books in this exhilarating series and learn more about each of them, as well as new friends who have joined them.
Meg and her search-and-rescue dog, Hawk, have a rare day off with Todd Webb and are on a first-time adventure into urban exploration with Webb’s friend and fellow firefighter Chuck Smaill at a long-closed psychiatric hospital in Virginia. It is a risky adventure, but Chuck is familiar with the hazards. Webb had suggested that Meg and Hawk join them for the practice of going into the type of structure without fresh damage. Hawk, however, disagrees that there aren’t fresh scents, and alerts to a scent trail that they follow him on. It led to the coal bin, accessible from the roof, where inside they find a woman who has been dead a day or two. While not a cadaver dog, there might have been just enough human scent left, or scent from the blood on her hands, for Hawk to find her. She is elderly, and clearly could not have simply stumbled into the buildings or coal bin on her own.
Clay McCord is an award-winning journalist who is dating Meg’s sister Cara after meeting Meg at a site several months earlier. His investigative skills have provided invaluable, timely help with other cases since then at the Forensic Canine Unit of the FBI. He will work with the FBI under the constraints that he reports nothing until Craig, Meg’s boss, gives him clearance to. He recalls a case several months earlier where an elderly man was found after lying dead for quite some time in an abandoned Gilded Age mansion in New Jersey.
When Meg returns to work on Monday, she outlines the situation for Craig, who is interested if they find other cases that cross state lines. The thought of leaving an elderly person to die alone in an abandoned structure is horrifying. Craig finds two similar deaths, and he might be able to start an investigation. It is a couple weeks later when Craig calls Meg with the report of a senior who has disappeared. Meg, another SAR team member Brian and his dog Lacey, join her and Hawk, along with Webb, McCord, and Chuck, who can research and help determine the most likely sites to search. Unfortunately, they found the elderly man too late, but it confirms they are onto a serial killer – or at least, a killer for hire.
An agent is assigned the case who may have discovered as many as 23 unsolved deaths or missing elderly people across ten states. With permission, when the next senior is reported missing, SAC Kate Moore gives Meg permission to use whatever resources necessary for this search. Webb, as a paramedic, and McCord and Charles doing research, are included in her crew to find the missing woman. With the clock ticking, Meg, Hawk, her peers and friends try to understand what links the seniors who are targeted, especially when finding what caused their deaths.
I love the family that Meg has in her sister Cara, Hawk, her black Labrador who is as close as a partner can be, and their guys Web and McCord! While we don’t see a lot of their personal lives, we see enough to know how close they are on many levels, from romance, to sisters and close friends, to peer and close friend Brian, and our newest friend, Chuck. Chuck fits into this group very well and is a welcome addition. Each are defined by their actions and conversations. They may bring their special talents to the investigations and grow closer as friends throughout. I appreciate seeing their feelings as first responders, giving food for thought of how they get through when every end isn’t perfect.
Reading the history of the sites was interesting, with just the right amount of background. Understanding how Chuck began to find the most likely sites to go to when someone disappeared or was taken gave a better glimpse into how the killer may have chosen them. The site that Meg went through with with Hawk, and McCord talking her around the building and hazards by phone really showed how dangerous these sites can be to the uninitiated. There were times I forgot to breath, that’s how well-written they were! I very much appreciate Meg’s feelings about heights! From the opening adventure to the incredible ending, this intense mystery held my attention. The resolution is almost completely satisfying (as it was for Meg), I highly recommend this novel and series!
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*