Lieutenant Jonathan Stride knows his partner Maggie Bei is in trouble when she reports a deadly crime on a winter night. Maggie's obviously hiding a terrible secret. And her silence only feeds suspicion. Maggie isn't the only one keeping secrets. A young woman has disappeared, leaving behind a stash of lurid fantasies and a cryptic message. I know who it is.
STALKED is the third Jonathan Stride novel. Set in Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota Stride finds himself investigating his own. His long-term work partner Maggie is in her house, asleep in bed, when her husband - downstairs, on the couch, is shot with her gun. A local woman disappears after some bizarre allegations of rape. As further rape victims come to light, Stride finds that the threat is even closer to home.
There's obviously some back story to Stride, Maggie and Stride's life partner Serena that comes from the earlier books in the series. Reading this one as a standalone didn't suffer from not knowing that back story as it's handled pretty well. Obviously it's Serena that has had to move to Duluth, obviously she has had a torrid past. Obviously there is somebody out there who is menacing her. Is that person the rapist? Is the rapist also a blackmailer? Well it's not immediately obvious who's who.
Summing up STALKED is actually quite a challenge. On the one hand I really liked the way the story rolled along. On the other hand, the subject matter is pretty sordid and there's a real sense of pointless cruelty and viciousness as well as tacky sexual behaviour. Add to that there doesn't seem to be a single female character in the book who isn't damaged. Profoundly damaged. To the point where it was off putting, sadly almost cartoonish. That is a huge pity as frankly, it got distracting. Mind you, by the same token, the menacing presence of the uber-evil villain had a bit of that OTT thing going on at the same time.
What did work was that the male characters were interesting - complex without being complicated; pasts that aren't all dire. The plot was multi-layered and there was a startling amount of action, but there was never any feeling of that getting out of control or being too much. There are some actions on the part of the main characters which just don't seem sensible, but by the same token, they happened and the book draws to a fast-paced conclusion.