Forensic Instincts is an investigative team that combines science with a touch of what we might call, possibly incorrectly, the supernatural in order to solve crimes. It is composed of a group of individuals with markedly different skill sets, ranging all the way from an IT expert to a claircognizant --- that would be the supernatural part --- and includes Hero, a bloodhound, and an all-but-sentient computer dubbed “Yoda” among its members. It’s the brainchild of author Andrea Kane, who, during a long and successful career, has written an enviable number of novels ranging from historical romances to contemporary thrillers. THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, the third of her FI novels, brings strong plotting, memorable characterization and suspense together to create yet another one-sit read.
"Given the deep bench of the FI team members and Kane’s ability to create memorable, frightening and, above all, clever villains, the Forensic Instincts series should continue to be a popular one for as long as Kane wishes to keep it going."
Casey Woods is the first-among-equals head of FI, and the case that they are dealing with becomes personal for her from the start. As the book begins, the team has just been asked to assist the NYPD in bringing a cold case to a resolution. The terminally ill father of a young woman who went missing several years previously would like the case to be reopened so that he might have some closure by learning the fate of his daughter before he passes away. The team learns in short order that a vicious killer named Glen Fisher, who the FI just helped to put in prison, is responsible. Fisher, through an anonymous caller who appears to be acting on his behalf, practically admits as much. Even more startling is the revelation that Fisher was responsible for the long-ago murder of Woods’s best friend, an event that ultimately prompted Woods to start FI and assemble the talented team that comprises the organization.
Then, unexpectedly, similar killings involving college-aged women with red hair begin occurring, even though Fisher is in jail. Someone is obviously acting on his behalf, but who could it be? The team uses a combination of clandestine snooping and clues provided by team member Claire, who, if you didn’t guess, is the claircognizant member of the team mentioned earlier. The anonymous tipster provides clues as well, but his purpose is to taunt rather than help. The killer is making it quite clear that Woods is his ultimate target, and as he chooses victims who are within Woods’s circle of acquaintances, it is obvious that he knows far more about her personal life than he should.
When a traumatic episode occurs, the team circles around Woods in order to protect her, but the action ironically serves to further endanger not only Woods but also another team member. Seemingly at loose ends, FI embarks on a desperate --- and somewhat illegal --- plan to rescue Woods and the other captives before the deadly but ingenious plan of the killer is carried out.
THE STRANGER YOU KNOW reminded me in some ways of the Doc Savage novels that I’ve read for many years now. As with these books, the FI team members are all friends, with widely divergent talents that complement each other, even as their personality differences result in occasional but temporary clashes. In a neat twist, the non-human components to the team are often just as interesting as the human members of FI. Yoda, in particular, seems to be hooked into everything, and its contribution to the case near the end of the book is breathtaking.
Unlike the Doc Savage series, there is an element of romance to Kane’s book that melds well with the main plot without overwhelming it. Still, it is the antagonist who the team is up against and his frightening plan to destroy Woods (and, by extension, the FI) that ultimately makes THE STRANGER YOU KNOW a winner. Given the deep bench of the FI team members and Kane’s ability to create memorable, frightening and, above all, clever villains, the Forensic Instincts series should continue to be a popular one for as long as Kane wishes to keep it going.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 27, 2013