‘What Doesn’t Kill Her’ by Christina Dodd is a combination mystery/thriller/romance that does all three genres proud

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While “What Doesn’t Kill Her” is the sequel to “Dead Girl Running,” author Christina Dodd completely fills in the reader in a manner so natural that this book could be the first in the series. Former US Army Captain Kellen Adams is living at the winery where her daughter lives with the man who was Kellen’s boyfriend before her accident, her coma, and the missing year of her life.

In both books, Dodd gives the reader three statements narrated by the main character, Kellen Adams. In this book, the statements are:
-I’ve got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead
-I have willfully misrepresented my identity to the US military
-I’m the new mother of a seven-year-old girl

At the beginning of the story, Kellen is injured by a falling tile. Dodd lets the reader know that the injury was the result of an attempt to kill Kellen that failed. Kellen does not know this, but her injury is fairly incapacitating.

Kellen is getting used to the idea that Rae, the intelligent, feisty, and adorable seven-year-old, is the daughter she bore while in the coma. She’s having difficulty bonding with Rae because of some PTSD from her tour in Afghanistan, and Max suggests she take a job guarding an artifact on its way to be authenticated by a hermit who lives at the top of a mountain.

Kellen realizes that things are going south when the guy who picks her up starts acting strangely. What Kellen doesn’t realize until she’s kicked him out of the car (literally) is that Rae has decided that sneaking in the car and going on the journey with her mommy is the perfect way for them to bond. She had overheard Max, her father, talking about their lack of bonding, and being the smart and spunky girl she is, she made plans to fix that problem.

Unfortunately, the trip to the mountain turns really ugly. Surprisingly, though, when Kellen and Rae unpack the artifact, Rae is the one who identifies it as the Triple Goddess, a bust of three women. While they are being followed by no less that two groups of killers, Kellen and Rae must try to get to the top of the mountain in rough terrain — one injured adult and a child, with little food and carrying a 15-pound stone head.

As in the first book, there are suspects galore. In fact, two thirds through the book, this reader was convinced she had figured it all out. And Dodd doesn’t hide why someone might be out to kill Kellen, but she does make it darn difficult to figure out who that person is. In fact, she creates a perfect red herring. The twist at the end when the real culprit is unmasked is clever and unexpected.

There’s plenty to please all kinds of readers. There’s lots of mystery, there’s action galore, and there’s some steamy romance. There’s even a cute kid.

Dodd leaves the reader with a cliffhanger ending. At the end, Max narrates, “I have three confessions:
1. My name is Max Di Luca.
2. I’m a father and a husband, and I’ll do what I must to save my daughter and my wife from harm.
3. I will kill to protect my family. Make no mistake about that.

The next book in the Cape Charade series is “Strangers I Know,” and one can surmise it will be told from Max’s point of view. Can’t wait.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by HQN Books, the publisher, for review purposes.

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