Hide and Seek (Criminal Profiler #1) by Mary Burton

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

She’s hunting. He’s watching.

Special Agent Macy Crow is a survivor. After a vicious hit-and-run nearly kills her, she gets right back to work, and now she’s gunning for a spot on the FBI’s elite profiling team. As an audition, she offers to investigate the recently discovered bones of Tobi Turner, a high school girl who disappeared fifteen years ago.

While investigating with local sheriff Mike Nevada, a former colleague and onetime lover, Macy discovers a link between Tobi’s case and several others that occurred around the same time as her disappearance. As Macy interviews victims and examines old cases, she uncovers a sinister picture of a stalker who graduated to sexual assault—and then murder.

Macy and Nevada race to put this monster behind bars before he can come out of hiding. But the murderer’s had years to hone his skills, and soon Macy herself becomes a target. She’s no stranger to pain and terror, but will Macy’s first profiling case be her last?

Rating: B

Hide and Seek is the first book in the new Criminal Profiler series from popular romantic suspense author Mary Burton. This story features FBI agent Macy Crow, who was first introduced in the author’s last book, Cut and Run, where Macy was the victim of a serious hit and run accident she barely survived – but it’s not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy and understand this one.

When Hide and Seek opens, Macy has been working a desk job since being cleared to return to work some months after being discharged from hospital, and is keen to get back to work in the field.  She’s applied to join the small but legendary team that tackles violent crime and is given a case file to review as part of her interview, that of a teenaged girl named Tobi Turner who went missing around fifteen years earlier.  The previous week, the girl’s skeletal remains were found during a renovation project on an old barn in Deep Run in the Shenandoah Valley, and the local sheriff – a former FBI agent named Mike Nevada (with whom Macy had a brief fling before the accident) – requested the bureau’s assistance after DNA evidence suggested a link between Tobi’s death and the activities of an unknown serial rapist who’d been active around the same time.

The team leader isn’t offering any guarantees, but gives Macy an assignment – five days in Deep Run to find out everything she can about the case followed by a debrief in Quantico the following week – after which he’ll make a final decision about her application.  It’s what Macy had hoped for – she’s good at her job and she’s ready to get back in the game; now she just needs to prove it.

Mike Nevada hadn’t intended to run for sheriff in his old home town, but after receiving an anonymous tip off about the fact that the incumbent had failed to submit a number of rape kits for testing, and a meeting with the man that left Nevada furious and frustrated, he’d immediately declared his intention to run for the post – and surprising even himself, had won.  One of the first things he did after taking over as sheriff was to have those rape kits tested – and of the eight kits, three of them contain DNA that is a match to that found on the backpack belonging to Tobi Turner. But that DNA isn’t on file anywhere.

Once Macy arrives and starts her investigation, talking again to the families and friends of the missing girl and then widening her net to include the rapist’s surviving victims, she and Nevada start to unearth a web of connections stretching back years and into the heart of the local community. The earliest victims – one of whom was Nevada’s cousin – were raped but survived, although the extensive bruising to their necks showed an attempt at strangulation. But Tobi’s death was due to asphyxiation, indicating an escalation by the perpetrator. When a body is found dumped by the side of the road – raped, strangled, her hands bound with the red rope that has been found on or with other victims – it becomes clear that whoever is responsible never stopped committing these crimes, they just did them elsewhere – and now, with a new disappearance – a young woman who is similar in appearance to the rapist’s other victims – Macy and Nevada are racing against the clock to find her alive and catch a clever killer who has so far managed to keep himself completely off the radar.

Hide and Seek is a fast-paced mystery with a wonderfully twisty-turny plot that kept me guessing almost until the very end. There’s a fairly large secondary cast here, all of whom have important parts to play, and the two central characters are likeable and well-defined. This is more of a suspense novel with romantic elements, but the author creates a strong connection between Macy and Nevada, showing clearly that they like and respect each other and that the attraction that prompted their short-lived fling is still very much present. Macy is still struggling with pain in her damaged leg and not sleeping well; in addition she’s started to have strange dreams which have become more prevalent lately, but she pushes through it, unwilling to admit that perhaps she’s not taken enough time to properly heal, physically or mentally. Nevada offers quiet, unwavering support, even to the point that he doesn’t dismiss Macy’s concerns over the fact she’s started to dream that one of the victims is pleading for her help; I’m not sure if there author was trying to introduce some sort of paranormal twist here, but it was a bit awkward and didn’t really add anything to the story.

[I’ll issue a warning here and say that we get a number of scenes from the killer’s PoV which shed light on his twisted motivations, and put the reader in the room with him and his victims. The descriptions of his actions are not especially graphic, but may be difficult for some to read.]

I enjoyed the story although the suspense plot wraps up at something of a whirlwind pace, but there’s an HFN for Macy and Nevada, and I’m hoping that perhaps we’ll see them again in future novels in the series. If you’re a fan of this author, then Hide and Seek won’t disappoint, and if you’ve not read her before, this would be a good jumping in point.

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