There's a lot of crime fiction out there that is all about the investigator and the protagonist, but A TIME TO RUN tips that right on it's ear, setting up a scenario in which an investigator (cop) is the next victim of a mad, dangerous man who makes a sport out of hunting down the women he's abducted.
So, not a book for those readers that find that concept of the randomly selected victim and the barking mad, vicious killer too much. Particularly as this killer is appalling and very clever about it. It's not until a cop goes missing that a very dedicated policewoman sees some connections between her sudden vanishing, and that of a number of other women.
Sammi (Samantha Willis) is a cop who after yet another fight with her boyfriend, huffs off to Brisbane for a night out with a girlfriend. Said girlfriend hooks up, and Sammi goes home on her own, only to be offered a ride, and well, abducted. When she comes to, she's in the bush, and a madman wants her to run so that he can track her, and ultimately kill her. Not realising that his latest victim is a cop, not bargaining on her determination and cleverness.
The author of A TIME TO RUN, J.M. Peace, is a working cop in Queensland, so the procedural and investigation side of this book is spot on, without being bogged down in the sorts of detail that can sometimes plague write what you know scenarios. The pace, on both sides of the coin here, is tight, taut and unrelenting. Sammi's fight to survive in the bush is mirrored exactly by Detective Janine Postlewaite's determination to find her alive come what may. Of course early on there's a slight possibility that Sammi's boyfriend might have had something to do with it, although that's quickly resolved, and the real perpetrator identified. Finding him is another matter altogether, and here the way that the police networks work is used to great effect. There's also more than a hefty hint at the end about the frustration that police feel when the court system sees things in an altogether different light, and no glossing over the after-effects of an ordeal like Sammi's.
Whilst it makes perfect sense that the training police undertake would help a lot maintaining calm, thinking through possiblities, and being physically and mentally able to react when cornered as she was, it would have been perhaps a little more comforting to think that the police investigating would have been as diligent had the abductee been any woman - not just a cop. To be fair though, it was the knowledge of a colleague's personality, and behaviour that rang alarm bells in the first place.
A TIME TO RUN's a debut novel and it's hard to tell if there's a series in the making - around Postlewaite, Willis or both of them somehow, but given the writing style of this author, and her expertise in the field, it will be interesting to see where this goes.