While “Tell No Lies” is the second book in a new series by Allison Brennan, readers jumping in with this novel won’t feel that they are missing anything. FBI agent Matt Costa and LAPD detective Kara Quinn are investigating a murder, one that we “witness” firsthand at the beginning of the story. A student who is a passionate environmentalist at the University of Arizona in Tucson is killed while searching for evidence of poisoned water that killed wildlife in the desert south of Tucson. She had suspected that there was illegal dumping of slag from one of the nearby mines to blame, and Costa and Quinn and their team are determined to find out how she died and why.
Well, it turns out there’s much more than dumped slag from a copper mine happening in this lonely stretch of desert, and while Kara works undercover as a temporary bartender at the local Patagonia bar, Matt coordinates the others on his team as they investigate one of the workers at the nearby copper processing plant they suspect of being responsible for the illegal dumping. Another member of the team, Michael, is working at the mine undercover, and the local sheriff is also coordinating with them.
For those of us new to the series, we learn that Kara and Matt worked together on a case two months before this crime occurred. Kara had been undercover for years with the LAPD before her cover was blown by another member of law enforcement. Since she had to leave LA for her own safety, she’s been assigned to work with Matt’s team, and we find that she’s really good at undercover work and why. Kara is spunky, tough, and independent. Yet she’s also likable and compassionate, and she’s a character we really get to know and care about. Matt is a rather more one-dimensional character, although it appears that as the series continues, Brennan will develop both characters more fully.
While Kara and Matt and the others on the team are investigating the college student’s murder, we learn about many border problems that beset the Southwest area. Not only are there drug cartels moving drugs and arms across the border, but human trafficking of men, women, and children is rampant and executed by those same cartels. We witness all of those firsthand, and learn about how the trafficked are moved around before they are brought to their final destinations. We also learn about how cheaply human life is valued by the cartels and those who traffic in arms and drugs.
The story is engaging from the beginning, and while there are many characters, an omniscient third person narrator means that we know what many of the various characters are thinking. It all works to help us understand what is going on. In addition to Matt, Kara, and Michael, there is Ryder, whose ability to unravel threads of paperwork to find the culpable is almost magical, as is his ability to go without sleep when he’s on the trail of the criminals. There are others, also, whom we meet and who we know will appear in future books in this series. And we can’t wait to get to know them all better. Those who enjoy thrillers and detective novels with lots of action will appreciate the multiple possibilities that Brennan presents before sharing who the really bad guys are. We have a pretty good idea of where the plot is going, and there are no major twists at the end, but rather a solid nail-biting climax when the FBI team must save the day.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.