28th June 2020. 4 stars
Once Gone is the first novel in the series featuring FBI agent, Riley Pierce, and my first introduction to the character.
A serial killer is on the loose, torturing and killing women, who are posed like dolls for the police and FBI to find. With three women killed and a fourth murder likely, the FBI needs Riley and her unique skills. Trouble is, she’s on sick leave, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after being captured and tortured by another serial killer. Despite her own reservations and doubts, she’s drawn into the investigation.
The stage is set for an intriguing thriller. It starts well with sharply drawn characters and an investigation that feels very real and tense when a fourth woman is captured by the killer. The stakes couldn’t be higher when a senator, who’s lost a daughter to this killer, starts throwing his weight around, undermining the existing investigation.
An arrest soon follows, but have the FBI got the right man?
The arrest pushes Riley into a downward spiral of deeper self-doubt. Soon she is floundering, her behaviour becoming more extreme as she loses her badge. Naturally, in the tradition of the maverick detective, she battles on, fighting her own demons as well as trying to track down the killer before a fifth victim is found.
While the characterisation of Riley is sympathetic and for the most part believable, I felt her behaviour and actions became too far-fetched as the story hurtled towards a predictable climax. It took the edge off a well-written and enjoyable thriller with some otherwise incisive characterisation.
Women are turning up dead in the rural outskirts of Virginia, killed in grotesque ways, and when the FBI is called in, they are stumped. A serial killer is out there, his frequency increasing, and they know there is only one agent good enough to crack this case: Special Agent Riley Paige.
Riley is on paid leave herself, recovering from her encounter with her last serial killer, and, fragile as she is, the FBI is reluctant to tap her brilliant mind. Yet Riley, needing to battle her own demons, comes on board, and her hunt leads her through the disturbing subculture of doll collectors, into the homes of broken families, and into the darkest canals of the killer’s mind. As Riley peels back the layers, she realizes she is up against a killer more twisted than she could have imagined. In a frantic race against time, she finds herself pushed to her limit, her job on the line, her own family in danger, and her fragile psyche collapsing.
Yet once Riley Paige takes on a case, she will not quit. It obsesses her, leading her to the darkest corners of her own mind, blurring the lines between hunter and hunted. After a series of unexpected twists, her instincts lead her to a shocking climax that even Riley could not have imagined.