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My Sister’s Grave, the first book in Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series, came out in late 2014. I loved it. I thought Tracy was a smart, strong woman with fierce determination (evidenced by her dogged pursuit of her sister’s murderer). In fall of 2015, the second book in the series, Her Final Breath, made me realize that Robert Dugoni has a real talent for crime fiction and – not to be sexist—for getting the somewhat rare male mystery author who really and truly gets his female characters RIGHT. So I was extremely happy to have the opportunity to review the third title in this series, In the Clearing (thanks, NetGalley!)

Once again, Tracy Crosswhite, a Seattle police detective, gets involved in a case outside her own jurisdiction when a former police academy classmate asks for a favor. Following their time in the academy, Jenny Almond’s law enforcement career took her back to Klickitat County, Washington, where she followed in the footsteps of her late father, who had retired as sheriff in that county. Forty years ago, he was a new deputy investigating the death of Native American female high school student, Kimi Kanasket. Kimi was a star student and a hard worker whose body was found in the Salmon River after one night when she never made it home from the diner where she worked evenings. The case was ruled a suicide, but Jenny’s father never really believed the story. He had investigated the death as a new investigating deputy but was told by a higher-up in the Sheriff’s office to leave it alone. He kept records which led Jenny to think this cold case is worth looking into, and she asks Tracy for help.

Along the way, Tracy uncovers some deeply buried secrets involving both the ruling elite of the small town and members of the local Native American community, including Kimi’s parents. It’s impossible to say much more without giving away secrets that would spoil the terrific plot, but suffice it to say that Dugoni has proven again that he can develop multiple characters well enough that the reader feels they KNOW them, both male and female, young and old. Additionally, he manages complex plotting seamlessly – not an easy task but one where he continues to shine.

While it isn’t necessary to read the prior books in the series, as this one can stand alone, but I highly recommend the entire series (and there are some things about Tracy that are revealed in the earlier books that are more fully developed in this latest one).

I give it five stars: it held my interest, kept me guessing, was well written, and offered some unique perspectives on tribal life and culture. Looking forward to the next in the series!