Sonora Blair returns in a case that pushes the Cincinnati detective closer to her emotional edges and allows Author Lynn Hightower to probe more deeply into her heroine's psyche than she has in her four previous suspense thrillers. This time the divorced mother of two investigates a home invasion in which an entire family striving to hold onto its tenuous grasp on the middle class is brutally murdered, except its youngest member, a 4-month-old infant. But before the baby's mother expires, she manages to whisper one phrase to Sonora: "The Angel came." Was it a heavenly messenger that comforted Joy Stinnet as she lay dying, or a more sinister visitor? Sonora's partner Sam doesn't put much faith in the deathbed declaration, but Blair isn't certain. As she investigates what turns out to have been a savage visit from a couple of thugs collecting on a bad debt, she gets a lead on the killers from an unlikely source: a retired cop with a reputation as a hero and a close connection with her own boss.
Although she's seen her share of murders, this case exacerbates all of Blair's fears for the safety of her own kids and the security of their surroundings. Hightower's skillful depiction of her protagonist's emotional vulnerability, especially the guilt every single mother feels about shortchanging her kids for her career, invests this well-paced mystery with particular resonance and showcases the author's increasingly multidimensional characterizations. The Debt Collector is a good read in a series that gets better with every new book. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
At the start of this gut-wrenching police procedural from Shamus Award winner Hightower (Satan's Lambs, etc.), Cincinnati homicide cop Sonora Blair and her partner, Sam Delarosa, must investigate a dreaded "home invasion." At the crime scene, they find dead three members of the Stinnet family, father Carl and two children. Then Sonora discovers the wife, Joy, nearly disemboweled under a bed clutching her unharmed baby girl and repeating the "Hail Mary." The dying Joy claims the "Angel" saved them. This nearly undoes the tough but vulnerable cop, who has her own problems as a widow with two kids. When two suspects are picked up, Barty Kinkle and Lanky Aruba, everyone is relieved, except for Sonora, who believes the "Angel" is real and at large. Kinkle is about to make a deal, but he's killed while being transferred from jail. At the same time, Sam is badly wounded. When Aruba is shot dead through his psych ward window, Sonora becomes more than ever convinced that a third person was involved. As Sonora engages in an increasingly dangerous duel of wits in her pursuit of the phantom angel, Hightower builds the suspense to an almost unbearable pitch. The domestic concerns of police and victims, Sonora's budding romance with Sam's ER doctor and her rock-solid partnership with Sam offer relief from the gore.
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