The Stolen Hours. By Allen Eskens.
(Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Co., 304 pages, $28.)
In this best-selling author's latest Minnesota-based thriller, readers are reacquainted with Lila Nash, a character in several earlier novels. Having survived a brutal attack in her wilder teen years, a damaged but determined Lila has buried most of her demons as she made her way through college and law school. Now she's on the verge of becoming a county prosecutor.
Then a case is assigned to her that pulls her back into her personal nightmare. She must build an airtight prosecution against a man who has drugged, raped and dumped a woman in the river, leaving her for dead. But Sadie Vauk survived, barely able to climb from the water in time to avoid being swept over a waterfall.
Police and Lila's prosecuting team soon connect enough evidence to tie a local event photographer to Sadie's case. But he's cunning, meticulously covering his tracks. When they finally get him in court, Lila recognizes his distinctive lisp … and the memories come floating back from that horrific night years ago.
Lila links the photographer to at least three other killings with an identical M.O., right down to where he dumps the body just above the falls so it can be ravaged and made hard to identify if it's ever found. Lila has to navigate her unscrupulous boss' attempts to sabotage her at every turn as she plans her attack on this man that she believes was her own attacker.
Eskens, a former criminal defense attorney, captures the legal drama skillfully. But it's how he nails his characters, with believable dialogue and shrewd interplay, that makes this work stand out.
Oh, and there's a fabulous twist at the end. Wouldn't you know it?