Take the Bait, S.W. Hubbard, Pocket, $5.99.
This is a refreshing new series set in New York's Adirondack Mountains, and the setting is almost as important as the central character, Police Chief Frank Bennett. The reader is with Bennet every step of the way as he unravels the secrets behind a teenage girl's strange disappearance. The girl, Janelle Harvey, has vanished on a seemingly simple errand to the gas station to fill a can of gas for her father, leaving absolutely no trace behind. Bennett, a newcomer to the area after a failed case at his last job, does everything by the book, even though he falls prey to the same mistakes that caught him the last time - not listening to a subordinate because that subordinate (Earl) seems to be not very smart. Bennett is also thwarted by one of the civic leaders, Clyde Stevenson, who was the lone vote against his appointment as chief and questions every move he makes. The town turns out to be divided in the matter, but as the days tick by and Janelle isn't found, the questions become louder.
To me the strength of this novel is the careful attention given to the investigation itself - all Bennett's steps are logical, and the reader is never a jump ahead of him but making the discoveries Frank makes at the same time that he does. The twining together of several plot threads is also well done. There are some good twists at the end as well as some vivid characterizations of side players - Janelle's aunt Dorothy being particularly strong, as well as her cousin, Tommy. Hubbard's clever story will leave you guessing, and hoping that Janelle will be found, one way or another. And in the end, Earl is given his due. Not only does Bennett solve the case, he opens his mind to the possibilities of Earl. They make such a good duo I hope that Hubbard doesn't break them up in future novels. Meet S.W. Hubbard on Saturday, June 28, at 1:30 p.m. when she signs books with Denise Swanson and Libby Fischer Hellmann.
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