With last month’s release of Deadeye, the third in the Luce Hansen series, my reading OCD kicked in and I had to go back and start from the beginning. I’m glad I did as Crossed is an excellent read and Doench is a great author.
First in the series, Crossed introduces us to Luce Hansen, an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations. A seasoned investigator, Luce is assigned a serial killer case that may make her career and pave her way to being accepted by the FBI. It also happens to be in the small town where she grew up and has potential link to a murder that that took place when she was a teen.
There’s a lot going on in this book – it’s a gritty crime thriller/mystery with a pretty gruesome series of murders and it’s also an introspective book as Luce comes to terms with her past and how it impacts her present. Doench plunges the reader right in the thick of things – you are present in the story with Luce both in her thoughts and the physical sights, sounds, and oh so bitter cold of winter.
From a mystery perspective, this is a really good and solid read that keeps up a good pace. Luce is an experienced investigator and the case unfolds with just enough leads, suspects and questions to keep you engaged and interested in the ongoing case. With the link to the older case, Doench weaves in a different type of suspense as you slowly piece together what happened with Luce and her girlfriend, Marci when they were teens. The thriller part comes a bit farther in the book and by that point you’re so enthralled with the story and characters you won’t want to put it down.
From a character or psychological perspective, this is a great read. Luce is focused and tunnel-visioned when it comes to her cases, and they consume her to the point that she has little left to give – bringing her back to her hometown and the unsolved murder of her first love brings this to a head. The guilt and regret still haunts her and is the driving force for much of her career and the main impediment for her relationships. At the same time, you see her vulnerability – more apparent in her youth but still there as an adult – and the walls and distance she puts up are as much for her protection as they are to her detriment. Coming home, she’s forced to face people from her past and finds they still have such a strong influence on her sense of self and worth.
Her relationship with Rowan, her long term partner, is at an impasse and unless she can let go of her past, there’s a real and present danger that it won’t last. Rowan is so different from Luce – an artist and spiritual rather than religious, she is a balanced and steady rock for Luce, but at the same time, she is frustrated by Luce’s obsession with the cases and her inability to get Luce to fully open up to her. I really liked the depiction of their relationship – they both want it to work and Rowan is desperately trying to get Luce to let her in, while Luce is desperately trying to let her in. This isn’t a romance per se, but there’s a strong relationship being put to the test.
Despite being told in first person POV, the supporting characters are remarkably rich and well developed. There are levels of complexity in both the characters and Luce’s relationships with the characters that lends the story a wonderful sense of authenticity. Ainsley, the retired police detective who used to work with Luce’s father, comes alive on the page – on the surface he is a Christian conservative and a bit of an arrogant hot-head, but he is focused on closing the case and finding justice. Their relationship is strained and prickly, with uncertainty of motives, but there’s also trust and familiarity.
I’ve been struggling with how to describe how much I enjoyed this book and why without giving too much away. Part of the enjoyment I got out of the book was peeling away the layers with Luce as she investigates the current murders and her memories and feelings from her past. Suffice it to say this is a really great book and I’m chomping at the bit to start the second one now.