Tue
Oct 24 2017 12:00pm

Review: Her Last Day by T.R. Ragan

Her Last Day by T.R. Ragan is the first book in a new series about PI Jessie Cole (available October 24, 2017).

PI Jessie Cole is having a bad day. She’s following a guy that’s been accused of stalking, but he turns on her and starts shooting! Jessie shoots back, but he has blanks in his gun, and she’s got real bullets in hers. He’s taken to the hospital in critical condition, and she’s taken into custody. 

She glanced at the clock. “I need to go, Detective. I was supposed to pick up my niece ten minutes ago.”

“Oh,” he said, angling his head just so. “You have to go? Well, that’s too bad.” He jabbed a finger in the air. “You’re a piece of work. You shot someone. And not for the first time. You’re not going anywhere.”

A shiver of anxiety crawled up her spine. “I did nothing wrong,” she said, stiffening. “I understand the laws regarding the use of deadly force. I was defending myself and others against a forcible and atrocious crime.”

“And yet after everything you went through a few years ago, you shot the man anyhow.”

“My life was in imminent danger.” She tapped a finger on the table for emphasis. “I saved ‘innocent bystanders from unavoidable danger of death.’”

The detective frowned. Clearly he was not impressed by the fact she’d memorized parts of the California laws concerning self-defense.

“There were people everywhere,” she said, surprised by the desperation in her voice.

Obviously, she was defending herself, but he’s claiming that she was stalking him! Luckily, a friend comes to her aid and convinces Jessie’s estranged father to put up his house for her bail. Now, Jessie must get to the bottom of this so-called stalker (who also happens to be a criminal defense lawyer) and clear her own name before she’s framed up for attempted murder.

Luckily, she’s got cop and former flame Colin Greyson on her side. They’ve got a steamy history: they were together when he was still married, but when his soon-to-be ex-wife showed up at the door announcing she was pregnant, Jessie became convinced the right thing to do was for Colin to go back to his wife and make it work. They stayed together for five years before breaking up for good. Jessie and Cole met up by chance a little less than a year ago and became friends again. Colin wants more, but Jessie has her foot firmly on the brakes—even though she still has feelings for him. 

Journalist Ben Morrison is eager to dig into the disappearance of a young woman who went missing 10 years ago: Jessie’s younger sister Sophie (whose 14-year-old daughter Olivia she now raises). When he calls up Jessie hoping to talk, she’s reticent. But Ben has secrets of his own. He’s a survivor of a car crash that left him with profound memory loss, and he drops quite a bombshell on Jessie: he may have known her sister.

Meanwhile, a truly diabolical killer is keeping people prisoner in his underground lair, and Colin is trying to track this psycho down before they find another body. I say lair because it really conjures up the perfect picture of one, complete with cages where he imprisons people and torture devices he uses freely on his poor captives or makes them use on each other. The media is calling this guy the Heartless Killer, but heartless doesn’t even begin to cover it. He’s as cruel and sick as they come, and he’s got a new captive to add to his underground human zoo:

He already knew it was Erin Hayes. When he’d found her on the side of the road with a flat tire, she’d accepted a ride, which he’d found surprising. Getting someone inside the car was usually the most difficult part. After drugging her and bringing her to the farmhouse, he’d looked through her purse. Her ID had provided her name and address. A search through social media had done the rest. But he would ask her questions anyhow because conducting interviews was half the fun. He thought of it as the beginning of the end.

Erin Hayes is no wilting flower, though, and she plans to give this sicko a run for his money.

Jessie must juggle single motherhood, her job—finding missing persons (her specialty)—and the lingering pain of her missing sister. It’s a helluva lot to deal with, and the smart, relatable Jessie does it with aplomb. Ragan knows how to write a rip-roaring thriller that starts out strong and rarely falters. She’s a crackerjack storyteller, never sacrificing character development for pacing, although this one trots by at lightspeed.

If you like serial killer thrillers that genuinely thrill and have plenty of depth, now’s the time to discover Jessie Cole and T.R. Ragan. Dare you not to read this one in one sitting!

 

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Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at mybookishways.com, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

Read all posts by Kristin Centorcelli for Criminal Element.

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