Reading mysteries and thrillers is addictive because in addition to solving puzzles, we love getting the opportunity to delve into the motivations behind people’s actions. Often, authors share the motivations of not just the criminals or perpetrators of the crimes, but also the emotion and reasoning behind those who are trying to solve the crimes.
And so it is with the Quinn & Costa mysteries by Allison Brennan. In “The Wrong Victim,” which is the third book in the series, we continue to gain insight into Kara Quinn, the main character. While the series is named for both LAPD detective Kara Quinn and Matt Costa, an FBI agent who is now her boss, this book is much more about Quinn. She’s a fascinating character, from her childhood being raised by con artists to her betrayal when she was an LAPD detective, resulting in murderous threats so dire she can’t return to her life there in L.A.
As with the previous novel in the series, which was set in the Tucson desert, the setting is an important part of this thriller. The San Juan Islands are in the middle of a waterway that sits between Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington. The largest island is San Juan Island, and Friday Harbor, the island’s largest town, is where much of the action takes place. Matt Costa takes his Mobile Response Team, a new FBI endeavor, to the islands after a bomb kills nine people on a charter boat. The local law enforcement helps the team significantly, and the descriptions of the setting will make those who love water want to plan a trip to this idyllic location.
The FBI team works to solve the bombing, and the most important part of figuring out the culprit and motive is trying to ascertain who of the nine victims was the intended target of the bombing and why. On the surface, a grieving widow might seem the obvious perpetrator because of the multiple millions she inherits, but Quinn’s gut instincts tell her that suspicion is not accurate.
The novel has multiple facets. On one level, we see the criminal investigation of the bombing, which leads us to another criminal investigation a retired FBI agent, Neil Devereaux, who is also one of the victims of the bombing, had been investigating for years. The deaths he was investigating seemed unrelated and had been determined to be accidental, but he was convinced that all five victims were murdered. Was he killed to stop that investigation? There is also the fact that a local environmental group, Island Protectors, are convinced that the West End Charter company was evil and was a habitual environment polluter. Was the bombing an overzealous member trying to harm the company?
During the course of the eight days that are meticulously detailed in the novel, we see how this FBI team works. Each team member brings something to the table, and because of the omniscient third person narrative, we are privy to many of the team’s personal quirks and emotions. The three characters who are the most flawed are also central to the story. Matt Costa, the leader of the team, is involved in a relationship with Kara. Their relationship is secret, for obvious reasons, and both know that if it did become known, there would be repercussions that would affect Kara the most. Matt’s good friend and teammate, Dr. Catherine Jones, one of the FBI’s top forensic psychiatrists, has her own demons; those demons affect her relationship with Quinn and Costa.
Each of the team members ends up in danger at some point, and the action is virtually nonstop. A second bombing changes the order of who they think is guilty. But when there are leaks coming from inside the investigation, they must decide who is talking out of turn and whether it’s intentional or accidental.
As is often the case with a series, readers will understand more of the interactions between the characters if they’ve read all the previous books. The first book, especially, is referenced in this one. That’s not to say that “The Wrong Victim” doesn’t work as a stand alone novel, because it does. But if you enjoy thrillers, flawed but admirable characters, and a twisty plot that makes sense at the end, you will want to read all the books about Quinn and Costa.
Please note: This review was first published on Bookreporter.com.