Revell Publishers has graciously supplied me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common - a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities - and their hearts.
Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris is the first book in the Southern Crimes series and follows Detective Avery North as she tries to balance life as a single mother, a possible blooming romance, family commitments, responsibilities at church and a time-consuming job. When a possible serial killer targets young Asian girls, Avery has to join forces with her romantic interest, medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Together Avery and Jackson need to find a tangible link between the murdered girls in order to make sense of a case that just can't seem to come together. On the side Avery is also conducting her own investigation of her brother's death - also a police officer, Michael's reputation has been destroyed as he was labelled a mole after his death. Refusing to believe the rumours surrounding her brother's loyalties, Avery won't let go of her suspicions that her brother's close friend, Mason, is the one responsible. When Avery is ordered to work with Mason on a different case built on one of her prime suspects, Avery's ability to forgive and forget comes into question. Is it time she let Mason off the hook and focus her investigation elsewhere?
I really, really wanted to like this book. The synopsis had me hooked and I was in the mood for a good mystery. While Harris delivered on the religious aspect of this novel, the mystery aspect fell a little short for me. I found it hard to get into this book and found it all to be a little too slow for my liking. Even in the most suspenseful of scenes I was never wound up, and I never feared for the characters (though I was very shocked by an unexpected death). The author didn't completely place me in the scenes; I wasn't quite immersed in the story. The story did pick up speed around the halfway mark, and from there I got into it a bit more.
I would have liked more focus on the intricacies of detective work, and I would have liked Avery to be just a bit more solid in her cop instincts. For instance, knowing a possible serial killer is toying with her, Avery wakes one night from a noise. She suspects someone is in her house. What does she do? She turns on her bedside light! My father used to be a cop, and one of the first things he ever taught me is that if you suspect someone is in the house at night, you never turn on the light. In your own home, darkness can be your greatest advantage. You know every nook and cranny in your home, and you can dictate the situation if you have that upper hand; whereas if you turn on the light, they can see you but you can't see them - this scene unfortunately made me question Avery's competence as a cop. Also, Avery dropped evidence. While I understand that scene shows a certain level of vulnerability in her, I would have liked Avery's cop instincts to be more solid. I do like the way Harris portrayed Avery's struggle to balance all of the aspects of her life, her concerns being a single mother and her hesitation to get romantically involved following her husband's death.
From the synopsis I have to say that I expected a decent amount of romance (suspense and romance, just how I like it!), but Jackson and Avery don't spend an awful lot of time together, and the chemistry between them just didn't work for me. On the upside, the supporting characters are really interesting. I like Avery's father, daughter and partner, and her mother's decline following her brother's death is a brilliantly handled sub-plot, which I assume will be dealt with more in the next book in the series. While Avery's serial killer case is wrapped up, she got no closer to finding the truth about her brother's death, which I also assume will be explored further in the next book.
What Harris did manage to capture very vividly is the harsh realities of human trafficking. Personally, while I knew human trafficking still occurred, I had no idea that it is the second largest illegal and profitable enterprise in the world! Approximately 27 million people are enslaved around the world, and there are more slaves today than ever before in history! You can learn more about human trafficking here, on Lisa Harris' website.
While this isn't one of my absolute favourite books in this genre, I would consider reading the next book in the series to discover more about Michael's death and Mason's involvement, and to see how Avery and Jackson's relationship progresses now that they are more serious about each other and not just casually dating.
Title: Dangerous Passage
Author: Lisa Harris