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Oklahoman book review: Robert Dugoni's mystery novel has tragedies that may hit 'Close to Home'

"Close To Home" by Robert Dugoni (Thomas and Mercer, 368 pages, in stores)

I am a big fan of crime fiction, and "Close To Home" was my first time to read the Tracey Crosswhite series by Robert Dugoni, even though this is his fifth book featuring the female detective who works out of the Seattle Violent Crimes Unit.

After finishing "Close To Home," I am certainly tempted to check out the previous four Crosswhite books. The fact that I hadn't read any of the first four didn't prevent me from enjoying "Close To Home," which stands on its own as a compelling crime novel.

In "Close To Home," Crosswhite and her partner, Kinsington "Kins" Rowe, are assigned to a hit-and-run accident that kills a 12-year-old African-American boy on his way home from a rec center to beat his curfew. The death occurs at a time when relations are strained between the African-American community and police.

At the same time, the other half of the Violent Crimes Unit's "A" Team — Crosswhite's and Rowe's colleagues Delmo Castigliano and Vic Fazaio — are working the case of Del's 17-year-old niece, Allie, who recently died of a heroin overdose. The two investigations eventually cross paths and lead to a killer conspiracy.

The book reads like an NCIS episode as the key suspect in the hit-and-run is an active duty serviceman assigned to a local base. Crosswhite and local authorities must butt heads with Naval Criminal Investigative Services and a zealous and intelligent JAG lawyer, Leah Battles, who is defending the serviceman. However, Battles becomes the target of a criminal investigation when a key piece of evidence comes up missing.

Was Battles framed or is she part of the conspiracy?

A good mystery requires a few good plot twists and Dugoni certainly provides one in the book's climatic ending, while at the same time offering readers insight to the causes and deadly consequences of heroin addiction.

In the book's epilogue, the former trial attorney writes that he had always believed heroin addicts were "people living in rodent-infested apartments. The words that had the greatest impact on me during my research were those describing so many addicted 'as good kids from good families.'"

Crosswhite's detective work and the legal issues in "Close To Home" ring true and authentic, as do the personal lives and troubles of Dugoni's characters. Not only does Dugoni pen a good mystery, but he also makes you care about the characters he creates.

Crosswhite is a 40-something newlywed who is dealing with the sadness of infertility while promising to get justice for a family who has no faith in the justice system. Castiliango is trying to find answers about his niece's tragic death due to drug addiction, while at the same time dealing with his own grief and anger and trying to take care of a grieving sister and her two sons.

In addition to being a solid thriller, "Close To Home" probably will hit close to home to anyone who has experienced the same kind of emotional pain.

— Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman

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Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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