Saturday, November 30, 2019

No Man's Land by Sara Driscoll: Reading Room Review

No Man’s Land by Sara Driscoll is the 4th book in the F.B.I. K-9 series, and once again the subject matter covered is a step into unchartered territory for me. I love how this series expands my knowledge. In the first book, Lone Wolf, the theme addresses bombings, a homegrown terrorist, and how rescue with dogs works in a bombed building or site. In the second book, Before It’s Too Late, there was the cryptanalysis and Civil War sites. In the third book, Storm Rising, readers saw what went on during search and rescue efforts after a hurricane and the horrific issue of human trafficking. And, now, in book #4, readers learn about the world of exploring abandoned, dilapidated buildings to observe their rate of decay, an activity called urbexing. As with each of the books, there is a term defined at the beginning of each chapter helping to explain the subject matter, just a short sentence that aids in understanding the jargon used by those involved. At the heart of all these books is the theme of rescue, both physical and mental. The pairing of the main character Meg and her dog Hawk came about as a rescue of one another, she from a job where she had lost a beloved dog and Hawk from being homeless. Their rescue of one another makes for a firm bond that helps them succeed in the F.B.I.'s Human Scent Evidence Team and is a part of the appeal of this series.

No Man’s Land starts out with a day trip to an abandoned psychiatric hospital for Meg, her dog Hawk, Meg’s firefighter and paramedic boyfriend Todd Webb, and Todd’s firefighter friend and urbexer Chuck Smaill. It’s a chance for Hawk to get in some training and exercising, and it’s an interesting forage for the humans into some amazing old architecture and a world long forgotten. But, Hawk seems to be on alert from the beginning, indicating that perhaps other humans have tread the grounds and buildings recently. Meg finally realizes that Hawk might be onto something and takes him off leash to do his thing. The result is the discovery of a body, an elderly woman who has been dead for at least several days. Whether she was dead before ending up at this site or died on site is uncertain, but one thing is for certain and that is she couldn’t have gotten to the area she was found by herself. Foul play was at some point involved. A tragedy, but one for local authorities to deal with, until in talking about their day at the home of Meg and her sister Cara, Cara’s journalist boyfriend Clay McCord mentions a similar case six months earlier where an elderly person was found dead at an urbex site. Meg doesn’t like the coincidence and brings the matter up to her boss Craig at the F.B.I.’s Human Scent Evidence Team, who discovers more deaths of the elderly at abandoned urban sites. When another senior goes missing in the area, the team starts an active investigation into trying to find the victims before they die and trying to find a murderer who is preying on those too old and infirm to defend themselves. The rescue efforts take the team into places that are dangerously unstable structures, and the murderer seems to pick some of the most precarious perches in the buildings to leave the helpless, dying elders. It is as time sensitive as rescues can get, and Meg must deal with her aversion to heights in situations where the highest point is a favorite disposal location for the murderer being chased. With the crimes being particularly cruel in the fear factor to the elderly victims, first kidnapped and then left to die alone in a decaying and scary structure, the team and their outlying sources of Todd Webb, Clay McCord, and Chuck Smaill are on a 24-7 schedule to stop the madness. 

This F.B.I. K-9 series checks so many boxes for me. As a fan of the television show Criminal Minds (an F.B.I. team unit show), as a dog lover, as a puzzle enthusiast, I get lots of interests addressed. The dogs and their handlers are always racing against the clock, building suspense on every page. These stories are just plain exciting. It’s truly like Criminal Minds with dogs. This series, like all series, builds on each book, especially in the character and relationship areas, but what is rather unique about this series is that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this last book or any of them as a stand-alone read. Of course, I have wanted to and have read them all and consider each book an amazing story, but if someone were particularly interested in one of the subjects addressed, like urbexing in No Man’s Land, I would green light it as a single read. However, that brings us to the character development that Sara Driscoll (Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan) is so adept at.  Each book brings more insight into these strong, confident characters that work together so well on unmasking danger and murder. Meg and Hawk, while the stars of the show, benefit and need the help of her boyfriend Todd Webb, who is a D.C. firefighter and paramedic, her sister Cara, who is a dog trainer and yoga instructor, and Cara’s boyfriend Clay McCord, who is a journalist with connections and super human research skills. Then there are the rest of the dogs—Blink, Saki, Coy, and Lacey. All the dogs, those that are rescue and those not, will help readers see dogs as important anchors in life. The rescue dogs, Hawk and Lacey, are fascinating in their abilities as part of the F.B.I.’s Human Scent Evidence Team. And, the storylines and subject matter are endlessly captivating, a constant source of learning for me.

I highly recommend No Man’s Land and the entire F.B.I. K-9 series. It’s an adventure you don’t want to miss. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher, and the thoughts and opinions above are absolutely my own assessment.

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