Review: A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham

A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham is the third book in the New York Confidential series (available March 13, 2018).

New York City: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Give that old chestnut a tug—there’s not a crime imaginable that hasn’t played out in the Big Apple. It’s an ideal setting for the third book in Heather Graham’s New York Confidential romantic-suspense series.

Working late at her office, Psychologist Kieran Finnegan is confronted by a distraught woman who thrusts an infant into her arms. Kieran tears after her, shoving through the crowds on the sidewalk.

“Listen, I’ll help you, I’ll help the baby! It’s all right…”

It wasn’t in any way all right. The woman lurched forward, as if she would fall into Kieran’s arms, if Kieran had just been close enough.

She wasn’t.

The woman fell face-first down onto the sidewalk.

That’s when Kieran saw the knife protruding from the woman’s back and the rivulets of blood suddenly forming all around her and joining together to create a crimson pool.

Psychologists are trained not to take their work home, but even after Baby Doe is safely in the hands of child protective services, Kieran can’t stop thinking about the infant with a “headful of auburn ringlets and huge blue eyes.” She enlists the help of her boyfriend, FBI Special Agent Craig Frasier. Craig puts together an alphabet soup of investigators, pulling in New York City detectives, a Major Crimes investigation, U.S. Marshals, Homeland Security, and undercover FBI operatives. Turf battles fade beside the horror of what they determine—the victim was murdered to ensure she didn’t rat out an illegal adoption operation.

Worried and looking to distract herself—even though she knows Craig is all in for solving the mystery—Kieran heads over to Finnegan’s, her family’s Irish pub. She and three brothers—Declan, Danny, and Kevin—are co-owners.

Heather Graham does a great job of showing how Kieran and Craig operate on parallel tracks to solve the crime. While Craig feverishly follows leads, Declan’s fiancée—Irish immigrant Mary Kathleen—asks Kieran to accompany her to the soup kitchen at St. Peter’s. The pub is fully staffed, and everyone knows that Kieran can be like a dog with a bone when she’s on the scent of a crime, so better to keep her busy dishing out soup. Mary Kathleen warns Kieran not to prejudge the clients—although some sleep rough, most of them just work hard to make ends meet. She might meet some whiners or malcontents, but that’s alright.

Mary Kathleen laughed. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my beautiful adopted homeland. But here’s the thing—people come here because we can whine. Complaining is the God-given right of every American! You just have to remember that throughout history, people have come here for a dream.

Kieran plunges in, serving countless bowls of soup and “learning a smattering of words—mainly please and thank you—in French, Creole, Spanish, and what she was pretty sure was Russian.” She’s unnerved when she notices a group of young women observing her—and a man too, who smiles at her but not with “an entirely nice smile.”

Should she trust her gut that something was not quite right? Or did she just need to get over herself?

Her gut didn’t let her down. Back at Finnegan’s, she has a surprising visitor: “a tall, dark figure with a sweeping cloak around it.” It’s Sister Teresa from the soup kitchen, who asks Kieran to return the next day to speak with a young lady who asked the nun if she knew Kieran.

“And—since Mary Kathleen did fill me in on quite a bit—I believe this young woman might be looking to you for assistance, and help in what may be a criminal matter having to do with a beautiful baby girl.”

There’s no “may” about it. Craig’s team and Kieran’s family meet after hours at Finnegan’s so Richard Egan, Craig’s boss, can fill everyone in: “Someone is dealing in human trafficking.” It starts with someone wanting a better life, Egan says, channeling the words of poet Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Unfortunately, Egan reminds the group, “once you’ve arrived—illegally—you’re at their mercy.”

“Then they use you for slave labor, prostitution, or both, I’m assuming. They’re probably using people in drug deals and gambling operations, as well.”

It’s a vicious criminal conspiracy of long standing. The illegal immigrants abused by “scam artists” are terrified of being discovered and sent back to their home countries. Craig and Kieran are targeted more than once by unseen assailants. They’re an appealing couple, fighting through a fog of misdirection, each operating solo at times to protect the other. The tension is unrelenting, focused on New Yorkers who literally and metaphorically run into burning buildings to save lives. At its core, however, A Dangerous Game is a paean of praise to the notion of America, a nation of immigrants, and the risks folks take for freedom. 


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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