– by Meredith Doench
After having read Books 1 and 2 of Meredith Doench‘s utterly engaging “Luce Hansen Thriller” crime series, which I thoroughly enjoyed, obviously I HAD to read its 3rd installment, “Deadeye!” Speaking of Doench, it was thanks to Jeannie Levig who first recommended her series to me when we talked about dark lesfic crime thrillers. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known and would’ve missed an opportunity to explore Doench’s brilliant crime writing style and plot weaving in lesfic! For me, her style is reminiscent of James Patterson and Thomas Harris’, which is my cuppa tea. Needless to say, Doench’s 3rd installment continued to showcase her crime/thriller writing skills in crafting yet another intriguing case, not to mention, her insights into the ongoing development of Hansen’s emotional and psychological journey as she continued her efforts to juggle her work with her personal life better this time. One swift read later, yup, this one’s my favourite installment of the series, yet.
Obviously, I have to comment on the captivating book cover! Feast thy eyes: A scope target. Fixed on a Celtic cross. Red all over. Interpretation: Danger. Insidious. Deadly. Sniper. That’s the story. Right there. Staring at me. Who wouldn’t be curious? Well, I was! And as I explored the story, I was immediately struck by its symbolism. Well done!
Because Doench also included Hansen’s private life which she first developed in “Crossed” (Book 1), continued growing in “Forsaken Trust” (Book 2), including her romantic relationships/entanglements, there was no reason she wouldn’t further advance Hansen’s relationship with her current partner, Bennett (first introduced in “Forsaken” not merely as Hansen’s love interest but played a major role in investigating and solving the featured case), in this installment. So, even though, like other crime serials, the Luce Hansen series is a procedural, meaning each installment can be read as a stand-alone, I’d personally advise readers who haven’t read the previous two books, to do so, IF you’re also interested in the chronological development of Hansen’s private life besides the case-of-the-week plot.
Back to the case in “Deadeye,” Doench’s methodical approach to setting up the crime plot in the prologue especially how it ended only elevated the level of my curiosity and intrigue about not so much the who but the why the crime occurred. The perpetrator’s motivation, so to speak. That’s one of the reasons I love crime thrillers because of the rush I feel, as a reader, as I get to play “detective” alongside the MC and/or other characters charged with solving the case. Nothing more thrilling than participating in victimology, post-mortem examinations, identifying, hunting and ultimately catching the murderer, all in the comfort of my seat exploring, discovering and uncovering the case through words and scenarios depicted in the book. And if you’re familiar with Doench’s style, her prowess in the art of crime procedures with a rich knowledge in the technical details of law enforcement investigation methods was once again portrayed effectively in this story. Plus, this time there was a matter of ballistics. The level of technical detail that Doench described about this area of expertise and what I learned from it (especially the so-called art of reloading casings and bullet making! Whaa?!) was utterly fascinating to me! Whilst the featured murder case wasn’t original, per se, but add the hunt for an escaped serial killer and the subsequent findings and discoveries from the investigation and pursuit, made for a refreshing and thrilling crime story, indeed. Plus, the escaped convict, nicknamed “Deadeye,” was known to Hansen and the investigating team, making the hunt more personal and with conviction.
Speaking of Hansen, in this installment, we saw her quietly attempting to settle into a somewhat normal relationship situation with Bennett, her forensic pathologist girlfriend. No worries if you don’t know anything about Hansen and Bennett’s story (Book 2) because Doench gave a sufficient account on it in this installment so you’d get a gist of their status at this point. But once again, the case took precedence over her private life as she was tasked to hunting down and recapturing serial killer, Deadeye. To borrow Thomas Harris’ term, Hansen was most definitely a “manhunter.” Ironic that this particular case of the two murdered brothers and the search for Deadeye led Hansen right smack in the middle of hunting season! In the hunting town was where Doench subtly steered the case toward something more dubious and sinister. Without giving anything else away, here’s a famous quote that I reckon would give you an idea…
“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.” – James Anthony Froude
I was delighted that Doench delved more into Hansen’s psyche in this installment, the progress she’d made thusfar which, despite having made a significant improvement since Book 1, no thanks to her relationship with Bennett, still had remnants of her PTSD from when she first encountered a horrendous crime which took her first love’s life. The most jarring difference in her emotional and psychological reaction to her deep-seated loss whenever the memory of Marci came floating back into her stream of consciousness was more wistful and melancholic than the debilitating agony she’d suffer at the mere mention of Marci’s name in the past. As with the two previous installments, Doench also wrote this book in first-person. So, like before, Hansen’s inner psyche, emotional turmoil, dilemma about the case, her mental well-being, matters of the heart described were acutely felt as she stumbled her way through her journey of reconciling her priorities in life, love and her future. I was chuffed to discover that in this installment, Hansen finally took the proverbial step forward into the promise of light and love in her life after years of living in the dark shadows of her mental, emotional and psychological torture with crippling fear for her safety, a destructive mindset that effectively held her own soul hostage in the previous two installments.
Safety and Security. That’s the crux of Hansen’s life, innit? Incidentally, it was also this plot’s theme as I realised the symbolism of certain acts and behaviours of the related characters. Although the heinous killings were straightforward on the surface, but as I explored Doench’s aptly weaved and constructed twists and turns, I realised the larger picture at play, which gave the entire plot an eerie and unsettling effect for me because it was reflective of what’s happening in our world today. Healthy paranoia or delusions of grandeur? Fear is always the starting point, innit? And that could easily mutate into something more insidious altogether, as we’ve seen/heard too many times IRL. That said, I felt like the two symbiotic conditions, the 2 S’s, were used as a theme in this book when Doench deftly ran two parallel stories to highlight the various metaphorical existence of safety and security through various circumstances, viewpoints and state of mind of individuals with different agendas including Hansen. Safety and security, with or without. Real or an illusion? Or just a state of mind?
The Celtic cross. My favourite part of the story, really, because of its metaphorical and thematic connotations with the plot and Hansen’s journey. What a well-crafted side-story that Doench astutely weaved into the mix involving this particular ornament that had always played a pivotal role in Hansen’s past, only this time its implications were never more critical to her reconciliation between her past and her present/future than in this particular circumstance. But what struck me with resonance was its symbolic value to Hansen’s sense of safety and security and its impact on her changing perspective about what made her truly safe and secure. That moment when she discovered who had possession of the cross was very subtly depicted but powerful. That mo just affirmed what she realised – that she finally found her true source of safety and security. She could finally go to sleep in peace knowing that she was safe! Small mercies, eh? But oh-so life-affirming for Hansen!
All in all, I really enjoyed the case and how Doench dissected it with procedural details including interrogations, witness interviews, fact findings, the actual field work, that always thrilled my sense of curiosity when reading crime fiction! Speaking of interrogations, I loved the scenes between Hansen and Debbie, whose behavioural characteristics, I thought, were effectively described, hence, the psychological angle of the dialogue felt even more compelling. Transference and manipulation in the context of prison and its most violent dwellers. Interesting. The secondary characters in this story were interesting. I particularly liked Donovan especially her natural rapport with Hansen. She was a detective whose instincts had led her to be recruited into Hansen’s task force. I appreciated that Doench took the time to reveal her character by peeling away the layers as we uncovered more about her and her back story through her encounters and private convos with Hansen. In fact, one of my favourite scenes was of them having a poignantly introspective exchange which was written with a subtlety that resonated, which made another related scene my favourite one of the book. I was caught off-guard by Doench’s quiet but impactful words that packed an emotional punch, bringing that particular moment to life. Utterly affecting.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this – Bennett. I absolutely loved Bennett since she was introduced in Book 2. So I was thrilled when I read this book’s blurb that she would be featured in the search for Hansen in the story. So, I was expecting a POV shift from Hansen to Bennett when she got wind of her girlfriend’s disappearance. I was excited because Bennett had an innate skill in finding clues with her astute analytical abilities so I thought it’d be thrilling to see how she’d go about it, switching POVs between Hansen and Bennett. Alas, it didn’t happen. Instead, Doench only mentioned Bennett’s involvement in passing in the aftermath, which was a bit of a let down, tbh, because the blurb sure gave me the impression that there would be more than just a mention of someone who happened to play an essential, life-changing role in Hansen’s life especially in this installment. I reckon Doench didn’t want to be distracted by another POV, instead only focussing singularly on Hansen’s at all times? I sure hope, if there’s going to be another installment, that Doench would re-consider because I believe Bennett’s character could enrich and widen the overall appeal of the crime thriller series, making it even more intriguing and exciting. Imagine the possibilities! Let’s not forget Bennett was a forensic pathologist with a nose for solving crimes with her unique way that suited Hansen’s perfectly! Having said that, Doench’s decision didn’t really affect the overall impact of the story, no worries. It’s just my personal preference and I thought it’d have made it even better, imho. Oh, what do I know, eh? Anyway…
“Deadeye” is definitely worth a read, as either a stand-alone or serialised. Regardless, I defo recommend “Crossed” and “Forsaken Trust” to fans of the crime/thriller/mystery genre, which like “Deadeye,” could also be read as stand-alones, too. Although, as I said, for those who’re curious about Hansen’s story besides the fascinating criminal cases featured in all three installments, I’d strongly advise reading them in chronological order. Luce Hansen is one fascinating and captivating character to explore as Doench has richly personified her emotionally and psychologically with utter aplomb! So, give it a read!
*An ARC copy was furnished, with much appreciation, by BSB via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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