Review: In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer.

Thanks to the author and publisher, through NetGalley, I have been provided with this book in exchange for a review. I was attracted to the book by the description of the lead character’s life experience, losing her sister to murder. As my family also lost a member from homicide, I felt an immediate kinship.

I have since learned that this is Mr. Dugoni’s third book featuring the character of Seattle detective Tracy Crosswhite. Having finished reading the book, it is easy to understand the acclaim that has greeted this series. This is a fascinating story of Tracy’s determined pursuit of the truth in a 40-year-old case, of the death of a young Native American woman, attributed at the time to suicide. The step-by-step process followed by Tracy in finding meaningful information forty years later is set forth partly through flashbacks reconstructed from rediscovered files, old newspaper stories, and other sources. We also meet Buzz Almond, an ex-marine employed in 1976 as a Klickitat County deputy sheriff. His diligence and intelligence reflected in the files he left are Tracy’s guides in her quest for the truth of what befell Kimi Kanasket.

We meet an array of characters involved in 1976 incidents and gradually learn how their lives and relationships have been affected by what happened in a clearing in 1976. This clearing, Tracy learns, is a place where many years ago an innocent man was hanged from an oak tree in the clearing. Subsequently, the oak tree died, the nearby town was nearly destroyed by fire, and nothing grows in the clearing. There is a time-travel aspect to this book involving the hanging in the clearing, Kimi’s death in 1976 in this same clearing and by a 2016 homicide case that Tracy’s partner Kinsington Rowe is investigating.

Tracy’s process in solving a 40-year-old crime story is riveting, and made believable by the wealth of supporting detail offered on the process she followed. This is an expertly woven tapestry of events and people that ultimately finds resolution in a satisfactory conclusion.

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