This is one of those books that is hard to rate. If you'd asked me after the first half, I'd have given it 2.5 stars, maybe 3 if you caught me on a good day. But I'd give that last half an unreserved 4.
It's almost as of the author was sleep walking through the initial chapters, falling back on tried & true cliches & dialogue from his popular Myron Bolitar series, minus the humour. Then something jolted him awake because suddenly the pace picked up, characters became interesting & most importantly, you started to care. Not just about the people but a genuine need to know how the plot lines would play out.
The MC is Det. Kat Donovan, a 40 year old third generation cop who initially comes across as a bit of a cliche. She's tough, lonely, single, hard drinking & hates her partner. Nothing new there. She's haunted by 2 pivotal events in her past. Eighteen years ago her father was murdered. Shortly after, her fiancé (Jeff) abruptly walked away.
These events have largely shaped who she is today & neither is ever very far from her thoughts. She's always had questions about the man convicted for the murder & continues to pick away at the file. As for Jeff, she never saw or heard from him again. That's about to change.
Her BFF Stacy buys her a membership to an online dating site. Trolling through potential matches, she stops on a man named Jack. He sounds perfect...not surprising as staring out from his profile pic is Jeff.
In alternate chapters, me meet Titus, a real pillar of society. Titus is a con man & former pimp currently running a catfish scheme. Using phoney ID's, he preys on wealthy men & women looking for love. For unlucky candidates, this will lead to the worst first date ever, one they won't survive.
It's a clever set-up. Gradually the plot lines begin to converge & the author employs subtle misdirection to keep us guessing about several of the characters & their agendas. I found the first half a tough go for 2 reasons: Kat not being a particularly likeable character & trying to keep track of multiple but disparate story lines. But midway, they started to overlap & that's when it got interesting. Even Kat herself seemed to perk up, becoming more sympathetic & actively engaged in her predicament.
Other characters include her colleagues, friends & additional victims of the scam & their family members.
The last few chapters are jam packed as Kat faces off against Titus & learns the truth about her father. Not just his murder but the secrets he kept that led to his death. And just as she finds her feet, Jeff has a few surprises in store to keep her reeling.
So my best advice is not to expect anything like the Bolitar books although the author does make a sly reference here to one of the characters from that series. And hang in there...after a slow start, there's a clever, fast paced & touching thriller waiting for you.
Final score: 3.5 stars. I liked that the ending is not tied up in a neat bow. As with real life, there are several messy threads left hanging. And we finally got to see a softer Kat, one who has learned the importance of love, acceptance & forgiveness. Not a bad lesson.