Collide-O-Scope - Andrea Bramhall Crime thrillers are ridiculously hard to perfect. More so if you have to delicately balance it with a romance. This book comes pretty close.

Newly promoted Detective Kate Brannon is called to a small village to investigate the shooting death of a local woman who owned a campsite. With no witnesses and a crime scene messed-up by the victim's pet dog, the detective has to rely on investigating the 40 other locals for motive and/or opportunity. Turns out the victim isn't particularly well liked, and everyone seems to have something to gain from the her demise. At least one of the villagers, Gina Temple, the campsite manager, seemed more helpful than the others. They have an instant connection and sparks fly. But Gina's status as a possible witness/suspect and her close relationship with the victim preclude any overt moves. When the investigation turns up more secrets, Gina is seemingly caught in a lie of her own. Even if she's not the killer, can Kate ever trust her again?

This is a very well-written and carefully plotted police procedural. There is an elaborate and believable mystery that had me guessing till late in the book. Meaty characters abound--both good guys and bad and an endearing kid who could 'grow up to be either a criminal or a cop' ;). Lead investigator Kate is as dogged and smart as she's supposed to be and the other cops are no slouches either. I had fun trying to puzzle things out. The bad guys are a resourceful lot. I was amazed by the ingenuity and sleekness of their whole operation. My only beef with the plot would be the murder itself. It was a monumentally dumb move of the bad guys to call unwanted attention by idiotically blasting off someone with a military-grade sniper rifle when something more innocuous like maybe...a shove off a cliff or a boat would have been just as effective, and no one would have been the wiser. Of course, it wouldn't have been as dramatic. :)

The understated romance is appropriate for the book. I liked how it developed naturally and in the course of the investigation. It could have done without the repeated "jolts of electricity" that spark whenever they touched ;) Made me wonder if they would spontaneously combust when they finally got together, lol. I guess the author wanted to remind us we're still firmly in romance land. Oh and the author is such a tease. But that would be a spoiler. LOL . :)

4.8 stars

ARC from Ylva