Book Review: Hide by Tracy Clark
By Janet WebbMarch 2, 2023
Chicago is where mystery writer Tracy Clark lives. She stands tall on the shoulders of earlier Black detective authors saying simply, “These black writers, these pioneers, did the heavy lifting.” Clark is too modest—she’s a pretty decent heavy lifter herself. I reviewed Runner, the fourth in Clark’s Chicago Mystery series, in 2021. Hide again takes readers into the heart of Chicago, with all its eccentricities and delights. It’s an escapist thriller at its best with a frisson of horror.
Elyse is out for a morning run. At thirty-eight, exercise isn’t an option if she wants to maintain a size six forever. She spots a big pile of leaves, which is odd because there aren’t a lot of trees along Chicago’s Riverwalk. Even weirder, a foot is sticking out. At first, Elyse thinks it’s some idiot’s sick early Halloween joke. It’s not:
Her scream tore through the morning like the screech of a thousand crows. Elyse backed away, her heart pounding, and then she ran back along the path the way she’d come, every alarm in her body clanging as panic overtook her.”
Elyse is so discombobulated she drops her phone. On the way up stairs leading to street level, she spots a Black man sitting on the ground, his head on his chest, a spot of blood on his jacket. Elyse screams again and again before finally dropping to her feet and calling 911.
Same Monday morning: 0800 hours. Detective Harriet Foster is rooted in front of CPD’s District One building at Seventeenth and State. Folks are expecting her inside, but she’s frozen with anxiety:
This was her first day back from leave, the first day on a new team. There would be a new boss, a new desk, a new . . . partner. Nothing she felt gave her any indication that she was ready, not one single thing. Only eight weeks had passed since it happened, eight weeks that felt more like eight seconds.
Detective Foster doesn’t think she’ll ever be ready to return to work. Why did her female partner commit suicide? If Harriet knew Glynnis and her family so well, why didn’t she see signs of mental distress? Survivor’s guilt is a heavy burden. She can’t stop thinking about it:
Glynnis had been a good cop, a decorated cop, and they had worked eleven years together like well-oiled gears in a high-performance machine. After Foster had lost her only son, Reg, to a thug with a gun who’d demanded his bike, a painful divorce had followed. Amid all the pain, Glynnis had helped her stay sane.
And now Harriet is in a new cop squad—with all its familiarities: scarred desks, CPD insignia everywhere, the stench of burnt coffee, and sweaty cops who’d seen more than any human should have the misfortune of seeing. Her new boss, Sergeant Sharon Griffin, seems by-the-book, with her straight posture and “blue eyes as sharp as Arctic ice,” but she recognizes Harriet’s talents:
“I’ve just been going over your personnel file again. Solid career, which is why you’re here and not out in the boon docks answering nuisance calls about rabid squirrels. Commendations. Solid leadership skills. Impressive clearance rate.” She looked Foster over again.
“I intend to tap those leadership skills. I want you out in front.” She paused. “How’re you doing?”
Foster had no idea how to answer the question. How was she doing? She was here. She’d gotten through the front door. Her mask was on.
Sergeant Griffin is nobody’s fool—she knows Harriet is suffering but she also sees the steel in her spine: she tells her not to suffer in silence, but then pairs her up with Jim Lonergan. This is where Hide reveals a vein of ironic, dark cop humor. Harriet’s new boss tells her Jim Lonergan is “an asshole, but he’s serviceable.” He certainly doesn’t make a good first impression on his new partner. The two of them are assigned to investigate the body of a woman on the Riverwalk. It doesn’t surprise Harriet that Lonergan assumes the Black man seen sitting on the steps is the murderer, but she’s not like him: Harriet’s conclusions are evidenced based.
There you have it. Two intersecting stories—a dead woman and the detectives assigned to her case. It’s no ordinary dead body: Two details stick out—the woman is a young redhead, and there’s red lipstick encircling her wrists and ankles. When another body is found with the same telltale characteristics, Harriet thinks she’s dealing with a serial killer. This theory is reinforced when an over-enthusiastic and somewhat creepy psychologist shares details with Harriet about Bodie Morgan: a troubled man with a twisted past and a penchant for pretty young redheads with the bluest eyes.
Hide is like a mashup of Silence of the Lambs and Hillstreet Blues. The personal and the professional intertwine convincingly. Readers will root for Detective Harriet Foster to solve the case and settle into a new work-home where’s she appreciated and working at full throttle. We’ll find out how that’s going in Fall, the second Detective Harriet Foster Book, which comes out in December 2023. I’m looking forward to it.