Source: Review copy
Publication: 19 November 2020 from Thomas and Mercer
An isolated highway in the middle of the desert—the perfect place to hide a secret.
LA-based artist Laurie Simmonds disappeared two months ago, her campervan abandoned on the isolated Twentynine Palms Highway, miles from anything—or anyone. With the police investigation stalled, her parents put all their faith in private investigator Jessica Shaw to find out the truth of what happened.
Jessica and her partner Matt Connor discover that two other women are missing, their disappearances connected to the same highway. When a link emerges between these women and a group of former college friends, Jessica feels certain they’re closing in on their target.
But no sooner do they follow this up than Laurie’s parents get spooked and drop the case. Jessica is blindsided but determined not to give up: three women are missing, and many more may be at risk. She can’t turn her back on them. But the more she pulls at the threads of the truth, the closer she comes to danger. Can she find out who’s behind these crimes before they come for her?
I am fast becoming addicted to this series and Jessica Shaw grows as a character with every book. Jessica is a Private Eye who, until recently, had been itinerant, picking up jobs as she travelled. Now though, needing to up her hours to get her California PI licence, she has taken on a job working in L.A. with Matt Connor, a PI she goes back a way with and with whom she has some chemistry.
Jessica is in part driven by discovering that she herself was a missing child and that helps fuel her ability to dig deep into missing person cases. This time, Matt’s Agency has been tasked with tracing a missing 24 year old young woman, Laurie, the artist daughter of a wealthy couple.
Jessica is intrigued by this case because the mother has gone to some lengths to suggest that her daughter’s disappearance is linked to other missing women who have disappeared in the same vicinity. The woman’s father though is sceptical and unhelpful; he clearly feels his wife is clutching at damaged straws.
Dark Highway utilises different timelines and characters to give the reader a bird’s eye view of each of the women who went missing, and to introduce witnesses and potential suspects. We learn about the lives of these women and how they lived prior to their disappearance, but it is Jessica’s investigation techniques that will have to piece together what any connection might be and whether that can be helpful in leading to Laurie’s recovery.
The book is fast-paced and the narrative flows really well, despite the changing voices and timelines which serve to keep the readers interest high as we understand the events that led up to the disappearances and also offered some hints as to why they may have been taken.
Jessica, doggedly determined, unsure about what she’s doing back working with Matt Connor but liking it just the same, is an investigator you’d love to go for a drink with. An independent woman who seeks to keep her vulnerable side tucked away, she is a character you warm to, not least because you see and feel, as she investigates the missing women, how strongly she needs to find out what happened to them.
Lisa Gray’s book doesn’t hesitate to go dark and there is one completely relevant, disturbing scene which leads the reader into understanding exactly why these crimes have been committed. Her sense of place and atmosphere is excellent and if I never have to visit the Twentynine Palms Highway, (California State Route 62) I will not fear I have lost out!
VERDICT: Gray brings drama and thrills to these missing person investigations. A gripping narrative arc, some tight plotting and warm, relatable characters make this third book in the series unmissable.
Lisa Gray has been writing professionally for years, serving as the chief Scottish soccer writer at the Press Association and the books editor at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Lisa recently left her journalism job as a reporter for The Daily Record and Sunday Mail to concentrate on full time writing. Learn more at http://www.lisagraywriter.com