Crossed - Meredith Doench Crossed is a debut novel, but you wouldn't know from reading it. The writing is strong and assured, the mystery is rich and complicated, the emotions and drama is explored in depth, the pacing is brisk and the resolutions are logical but real-life messy. There's even a beautiful love story or two tucked in there.

Detective Luce Hansen gets a dream assignment that will do wonders for her career--investigating a series of gruesome killings in a small town. But instead of enthusiasm, she approaches it with dread. The assignment will take her back to her hometown and all the depressing memories associated with it: the horrific and still unresolved murder of her first love and the ex-gay ministry that tried to fix her. Not to mention that the case might take her away for an extended period from Rowan and exacerbate their already rocky relationship. Once she sets foot in Willow's Ridge, she has to deal with an irascible partner, uncooperative and perhaps unreliable witnesses, some red herrings, possible multiple suspects or copycat killers or even a killer cop, and her own unresolved PTSD roaring back in full force.

The use of first person POV is very effective, as we get to ride figurative shotgun with the detective as she goes about the investigation. Police procedurals can tend to be tedious but the author interspersed Det. Hansen's daily routine with deftly placed flashbacks to her past, occasional 'chats' with her deceased father, recurring PTSD attacks, and both sweet and tension-filled moments with her love Rowan. Aside from the case, Luce also needs to deal with her own past issues, fend off more attempts to fix her sexuality ;) and the very real possibility of Rowan walking out of her life for good. Add to that the ever present threat of another killing hanging over the town and you've got one complex hell of a read. Edge-of-your-seat thrills in the last act complete this smartly-written, mostly unpredictable Rowan's abduction wasn't. The moment she shows up in Willow's Ridge early on, I though uh-oh, Luce better not let her our of her sight. OTOH, I was kinda hoping that the next vic be someone Luce cares about or Luce herself, because that pushes the stakes way up in any thriller and makes for a more involved reader experience. and very satisfying book.

Highly recommended.

4.9 stars

ARC copy received from Netgalley

O.T. ramblings:
I read this back to back with Rise of the Gorgon. I originally gave Gorgon 5 stars because I loved and thoroughly enjoyed it, and this book a little less, because well, Gorgon was a fun, thrilling read with a swoon-worthy MC, while this book has body mutilation, blood drinking and death everywhere. Ugh! right? Technically though this is a better written book, imho. So I'm back to the age-old dilemma of all book readers/reviewers--what to give more weight--enjoyment or excellence? :)