Wednesday, December 26, 2018

It Takes One

It Takes One
by Kate Kessler
Recommended Ages: 14+

This book introduces Audrey Harte, an offbeat protagonist for an ongoing series of mysteries. Audrey is a psychologist who specializes in the study of children who commit violent crimes, consulting with the star of a West Coast-based TV series about "Kids Who Kill." How very appropriate, then, that during her first visit in years to her Maine hometown, Audrey becomes tangled in a crime involving her accomplice in the murder that got her (Audrey) sentenced to a facility for troubled teen girls. It's an awkward situation all around. The cop in charge of the investigation, who was a high school classmate of both Audrey and the victim, thinks Audrey may be a suspect - and her dad, the retired sheriff, is even more convinced of it. Jake, the boy who came between Audrey and Maggie after Audrey's release, still has the same dangerous smolder he had when his betrayal launched Audrey on a course bound far from home - plus, he is now the most powerful man in town. Audrey's drunk of a father is still, unfortunately, the same as ever, but an ominous change has come over her mom. And there are other people in town who carry various amounts of baggage related to Audrey, and who are affected in various ways by her sudden return - including more than one person whose rage could cross the line into violence.

Murder, assault, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and various other dark and guilty secrets rise to the surface during Audrey's visit home. Everybody in town has something to say about it and knows everybody else's business. Nevertheless, no one seems to know who is behind the death of Audrey's one-time best friend, who may have been messed up even worse than anyone suspected. It turns out that an expert on "Kids Who Kill" who once was one will be the perfect person to get the killer, if the killer doesn't get her first.

This is a sexy, disturbing, dark and violent thriller of the "you can never go home" persuasion, yet in the end, its heroine realizes that she really has come home. Audrey is not always a very sympathetic character, and a smart reader will soon realize that many of her problems are of her own making; yet her danger, and the danger to those she loves, grips the heart. Surrounding her is a cast of complex, lifelike characters, some of whom you will like and dislike at the same time, trust and distrust. And by the end, the possibilities of a series of novels featuring a child psychologist sleuth will hit you like a blue bolt of "Holy Alex Delaware!" OK, so maybe it's not that original. But still, it's a high-yield little piece of entertainment that I found most useful for clearing my mental cache, and I think I'll be reading more in the series. Other titles, up to last year, included Two Can Play, Three Strikes, Four of a Kind and Zero Hour.

Kessler's other novels are Dead Ringer and Seven Crows. Her real name is Kate Locke, and under it and several other pen-names (Kate Cross, Kady Cross, Kathryn Smith and Kate McLaughlin) she has written quite a few other novels in a variety of genres ranging from mystery-romance to steampunk, including the "Immortal Empire" novels that I enjoyed a few years ago.

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