“She could trace her career, her life, and her obsessive interest in crime and criminals back to that single day, fifteen years ago.”
Harper McClain is a crime journalist. A good one, making a living in Savannah, going places normal journalists can’t due to her closer relationship with the police. That relationship developed from the sense of duty and responsibility Lieutenant Smith feels over never solving her mother’s murder. She lost her mother, but gained a large police family in return.
When Harper watches a young girl being escorted out of a house with the same lost expression she once wore, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to this murder than meets the eye. Everything is too similar, but everywhere she turns, she gets told to stop investigating.
But she can’t. When your world is turned upside down, and the chance to finally find the answer is offered, you can’t stop. She won’t. Risking everything she has gained, Harper plunges deeper into unraveling the murder, looking for answers the police refuse to find.
“This scene was torn from her own tormented childhood. She’d been that little girl once, standing in front of her house with Smith holding her hand.”
The Echo Killing is an enthralling read. Harper is a solid main character. She feels very real. I like that when she makes bad decisions, there were actually consequences, rather than a snappy character who manages to talk her way out of everything. It makes it feel more grounded in reality, rather than an obvious work of fiction. Plus, when she has to figure out how to proceed without her normal resources, it gives the plot unexpected paths to follow.
I also really like that when she makes her bad decisions, you still feel like her motivations are easily understood, even when you don’t agree with them. The fact that no one else seems to see the connection makes it even more maddening for her. To everyone else, this is just another case. To Harper, this is potentially life altering. Which makes understanding where she’s coming from, even when you’re screaming at her to knock it off, much easier.
Daugherty writes such vivid descriptions of Savannah, that it becomes less scenery and more a character in its own right. They aren’t overdone, but you get a sense of the landscape and scenery in a way that gives the entire book a certain feel. It’s lush and three dimensional. I also loved how she was able to highlight the differences of the city at night, Harper’s domain, and the city during the day.
“On the street, the warm, humid air smelled of exhaust and something else — something metallic and hard to define. Like fear.”
One of my favorite things about this novel is the banter. You get the sense when reading that you’re eavesdropping on real people. That’s not an easy trick for any writer to pull off. I also really enjoyed that the side characters didn’t feel created in a slew of stereotypes. They really did feel as complex and detailed as anyone you’d meet on the street.
Beyond getting a view of life as a crime reporter, we see the different faces of the people who work all aspects of these cases. As we go along to various crime scenes, we see different journalists, ambulance personnel, and witnesses. You get a feel for all the different pieces that are in play during an investigation. This realistic flair is probably due to Daugherty’s own experience. Which gives the entire novel a more gritty, realistic feel than typical crime fiction.
“In murder cases, there are two ways things tend to go — either everything happens very quickly and the killer’s locked up with twenty-four hours, or the process slows to a crawl.”
My one complaint is that I figured out who the killer was almost from the beginning. It felt very obvious to me. I’m also not sure how I feel about this plot point, which for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t get into. While I did enjoy the book and the characters, I would have liked to have been surprised by the big reveal. So, watching it unfold the way I thought was a touch disappointing.
However, I did like how Daugherty planted clues leading into the next book’s plot, which I am curious about. In all, this book is quite a fun ride, and was very enjoyable to read. I loved the characters and would be quite interested in reading more of Harper’s journey in crime reporting.
The Echo Killing is available now. This book is perfect for taking on vacation, so add it to your Spring Break reading list.
Thank you Minotaur Books for sending me a copy to read and review!