The Drowned Girls, by Loreth Anne White

>> Sunday, August 19, 2018

TITLE: The Drowned Girls
AUTHOR: Loreth Anne White

PAGES: 524

SETTING: Contemporary Canada
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: First in the Angie Pallorino series

He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared.

But Detective Angie Pallorino hasn’t forgotten the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victims’ foreheads. When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?

Then the body of a drowned young woman, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, floats up in the Gorge, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met just the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.

Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies, so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake loose some unsettling secrets about her own past. How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie?
The Drowned Girls starts a romantic suspense series set in British Columbia, in a city called Victoria (I confess I wasn't sure whether it was a real place or not, but it appears it is). Angie Pallorino is a detective in the Sex Crimes Unit. One day she's called in to a crime scene where a young woman has been found, seemingly left for dead but still barely alive. She has clearly been sexually assaulted as well, and there are certain ritualistic elements in what has been done to her that Angie has seen before. This was a couple of years back, but back then the victims were left alive. Most of those details were not released to the press, so Angie suspects the rapist is back and has escalated.

When a body is found in the sea showing similar signs, the cases become the territory of Homicide, rather than just Sex Crimes. Angie has been wanting to get a place in Homicide for a while, but she is contending with some pretty retrograde attitudes in her colleagues and supervisors. But with the decision to put together a joint task force with people from Homicide and Sex Crime, she gets her opportunity. And then she gets a big shock, when the man assigned to be her temporary partner turns out to be the man with whom she had a one-night stand just a few hours before.

Angie is a protagonist I don't think we would have seen in romantic suspense even a few years ago. She's not "nice". For starters, she's pretty self-destructive and this self-destructiveness takes the form of going to a rough bar and picking up random men and tying them to her bed. She can also be very defensive and hot-headed and make decisions that are not very wise. Not in a stupid way, just in a very human way. I liked that about her.

Angie is also going through a particularly difficult time in her life. Her mother has been having some mental health issues (seeing things, being out of it for a big proportion of the time), and has just been moved to an institution, as it's got too hard for her husband to care for her at home. The thing is, Angie has been seeing things lately as well and hearing voices speaking in a language she doesn't understand. She's afraid that whatever her mother has may be hereditary and that she might be going down the same road. At the same time, she discovers that certain things she believed about her past may not be correct. And maybe all these things are related. So yeah, while she passionately cares about catching the killer, her head is all over the place and she's a bit of a loose cannon.

Maddocks is more standardly "nice" and stable. He was quite high up in his previous job, but after he and his wife divorced he decided to move to Victoria in what was a bit of career backwards step, just to be able to spend time with his daughter. He does take risks in trying to solve the case, but his are more calculated risks. Basically, he's in a better place than Angie, that's all.

I described this above as romantic suspense and it is that, but balance-wise, it's quite heavy on the suspense. Angie and Maddocks are both focusing on catching the killer, as well they should, and what's starting to build between them takes a bit of a back seat. There is plenty of chemistry, but between the case and the fact that Angie is basically falling apart at some points, all White does here is set up a very early relationship. Any further development will have to take place in later books. And I'm perfectly fine with that.

Something else I liked were the hints about Angie's past. This is a thread that doesn't get completely resolved (just enough to give us readers some closure and not leave us hanging), so I expect we'll get more in future books. It works well here, as it's interesting in its own right and provides a very good reason for Angie's not ideal mental state.

There were a couple of things I didn't like, though. One thing was something that will probably not bother many readers. In addition to having to find a killer, the detectives have to contend with the fact that the case has connections to some politically powerful people in the city, and they will not hesitate to interfere. I don't know why I hate so much to see this in a book I'm reading, but I do. I find it incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad here, but it brought in a bit of annoyance for me.

The other may be problematic for more people, and it's that I'm getting more and more tired of the whole sexually sadistic killer who preys on women thing. It's more about the accumulation of so many books, TV series, films, anything, than about this book itself, but there was that element of 'oh, not another one' in my reaction to the plot.

Still, this was a very promising start to the series. There are 2 more books out now, and I've immediately bought both.



meljean brook 21 August 2018 at 17:51  

I have this on my TBR but after this review, I'll probably move it up. I've heard a lot of great things about this author but just haven't taken the time yet to read anything.

Also, Victoria is a lovely city! A few years back (too many years back) my siblings and I took a ferry up there and spent some time exploring. It's super interesting because it feels very "British Isle" in the sense that the buildings and just the general feel of the city seems like a touristy, condensed version of what I imagine the UK is like from books and films. As if there's nothing that's REALLY genuinely British, but by golly, the people who first settled there desperately tried to hang onto the motherland, in the location on North America that is practically the farthest from it.

meljean brook 21 August 2018 at 17:52  

(Er, the first people aside from the natives who were displaced, of course.)

Rosario 22 August 2018 at 04:37  

The whole series has had great buzz, and so far, I think it's deserved.

Just went to google images and looked up Victoria, and it does look lovely! How interesting; from all I've heard about other Canadian cities it doesn't seem like they've held onto 'Britishness' particularly. I've always intended to visit the US Northwest at some point, so I may need to move that up in my list and check out Victoria as well!

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