"Ransom River" (Dutton), by Meg Gardiner
Unemployed and nearly broke, Rory Mackenzie returns home to Ransom River only to find a jury duty summons for what promises to be the case of the century for the small California town: the shooting of an allegedly unarmed man by an off-duty police officer.
Before the trial gets off the ground, however, the courtroom is attacked, and Rory is among those chosen as hostages. In the wake of this trauma — I won't tell you how it is resolved — Rory finds she is among the prime suspects for engineering the attack.
Before long, Rory uncovers a connection between the murder case and an unsolved robbery case from long ago. What's more, that case is somehow connected to her family.
I am a fan of Gardiner's Jo Beckett series and would love to see this stand-alone novel introduce her to waves of new readers. Rory is a fantastic protagonist. She's smart, quick-thinking, fiercely loyal and resilient. She's the sort of action hero you want to see in movies: She can take multiple hits, and they just make her stronger.
Furthermore, "Ransom River" is everything you want in a blockbuster thriller: multiple plot twists, thoroughly creepy psychotic villains, danger at every turn. Gardiner has an enviable talent for pushing characters and plot elements to the point of straining credibility, but she never breaks the limits of plausibility. And the manner in which Rory pieces things together is satisfyingly unexpected.
Gardiner's conclusion to "Ransom River" leaves open the possibility for a sequel, and to that may I just say: yes, please.