Written by CJ Lyons — Some of my favourite novels are set in small town America. Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher tale, Make Me, has most of the action taking place in a tight knit community and that sense of claustrophobia plays a huge part in marking the book so gripping.
The same can be said for Last Light, the latest in CJ Lyons’ Lucy Guardino series. The previous six had our heroine as a member of the FBI. Now, a devastating injury has left her with a gammy leg and a fond farewell from the Bureau. But as fans of Lucy know, she’s not the sort to sit home, bake pies and volunteer to fundraise for local good causes.
She’s been headhunted by the Beacon Group, a consulting firm that works cold cases – the dreaded office job, with a team of amateurs and a boss who seems a little too fond of getting involved. But beggars, and lame ex-FBI agents, can’t be choosers and Lucy is to head up Beacon’s first field investigation team.
She has no badge, no powers of arrest but Lucy is never one to back off from a challenge. The first of which is the spiky, parkour loving former Marine TK O’Connor, a girl who has enough skeletons in her closet to fill a small graveyard and who isn’t about to give her new boss an easy ride of it.
Lucy doesn’t have time to get her seat warm before she and TK are off to Texas to take another look as a murder case that is 29 years old. Two brothers were convicted of the brutal murders of a husband and wife and their seven-month-old baby girl. But a witness says they were innocent, and that witness is in a hospice and doesn’t have long to live.
They fly to Texas and drive to Blackwell County to meet David Ruiz, a former investigative journalist now working with the Justice Project who is another lame duck. He was covering a story in Afghanistan when the Humvee in which he was travelling was blown up, leaving him with a brain injury which left him with total agnosia – he cannot add emotion to his voice or hear emotion in anyone else’s speech. He also claims to be a human lie detector, although the jury is out on that one.
That small town mentality I mentioned earlier starts to kick in as the team try to get to grips with evidence that is almost 30 years old. Some is missing, many of the people involved are now dead and those who are still alive are adamant that the right men went to jail. It all looks like something of a lost cause.
But one team member has personal reasons for wanting the case reopened. Ruiz is the son of the surviving younger brother, who has spent decades in prison, and the fast-failing witness is his mother. He always doubted his father’s innocence – can the new team find its feet (and some compelling evidence) and prove him wrong?
My one quibble about this thriller is the fact that the baddies are a bit one-dimensional – a little more exploration of them and their motives would have created a further layer of interest in a book that offers so much to lovers of fast-paced crime narrative.
Lyons neatly balances that tricky tightrope walk between back story and action, and some of the set pieces within the pages of Last Light are pretty explosive. I loved the newly forged trio of Lucy, TK and Ruiz and enjoyed following their early attempts at team building. We’re promised a second in the Beacon Falls series and I am already looking forward to it.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars