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Dead Connection    by Alafair Burke order for
Dead Connection
by Alafair Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Alafair Burke, author of three books in a legal thriller series starring Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid in Portland, Oregon, now introduces a new policewoman heroine in Dead Connection. Rookie NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher is surprised when she's invited to join a special homicide investigation into a series of killings that target young women who are clients of an Internet dating service called First Date. She is pleased but also a bit suspicious. Ellie and her family are still battling to clear her father's record. Detective Jerry Hatcher supposedly committed suicide after errors chasing another deadly serial killer years before in Wichita, Kansas. Ellie and her family have provided interesting media fodder ever since.

Bright and determined, Ellie makes a good impression on her quirky partner. Homicide detective Flann McIlroy might be annoying to his colleagues and some higher-ups, but his success rate has gained him a fair amount of leeway. Since she falls - in age and appearance - within the killer's target group, Ellie herself goes online as date bait, in an effort to winkle out the killer, much to the dismay of her brother. Their investigations begin to uncover a tangled weg that may stretch well into the past. And when there's yet another victim, the killer mocking the inability of the police to stop him, both Ellie and Flann begin to take chances. The ending was a surprise to me, and I liked how Ellie dealt with the difficulties raised by her overly PR-conscious superiors.

In addition to wrestling with a chilling adversary and all the politicking that inevitably accompanies any investigation, Ellie is also dealing with a developing romance and family complications. The author presents a compelling back-story in the fallout from her father's death. Ellie has to contend with her mother's and brother's emotional crises; her own stubborn refusal to accept the verdict of suicide and desire to re-examine his case may be a way to deal with grief. Dead Connection is an entertaining read, with an appealing protagonist, quirky supporting characters, the requisite twisted villain, and plenty of complications. I hope to see more of Ellie Hatcher and find out how she pursues her investigation into her father's death.

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