Review: The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

Review: The Third to Die by Allison BrennanThe Third to Die (Quinn & Costa #1) by Allison Brennan
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Quinn & Costa #1
Pages: 550
Published by Mira on February 4, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

An edgy female police detective... An ambitious FBI special agent. Together they are at the heart of the ticking-clock investigation for a psychopathic serial killer. The bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for high-stakes suspense.
Detective Kara Quinn, on leave from the LAPD, is on an early morning jog in her hometown of Liberty Lake when she comes upon the body of a young nurse. The manner of death shows a pattern of highly controlled rage. Meanwhile in DC, FBI special agent Mathias Costa is staffing his newly minted Mobile Response Team. Word reaches Matt that the Liberty Lake murder fits the profile of the compulsive Triple Killer. It will be the first case for the MRT. This time they have a chance to stop this zealous if elusive killer before he strikes again. But only if they can figure out who he is and where he is hiding before he disappears for another three years. The stakes are higher than ever before, because if they fail, one of their own will be next...

My Review:

I fell hard for this compelling mystery/suspense/thriller series a couple of years ago when I got utterly absorbed in the second book in the series, Tell No Lies, without ever having read the first. My absorption and compulsion has not wavered a bit after reading the third book in the series, The Wrong Victim, and even the recent fourth book, Seven Girls Gone, still without having gone back to this first book in the Quinn & Costa series.

My recent vacation presented a golden opportunity to rectify that omission, to go back and read where it all began. And what a beginning it was!

LAPD Detective Kara Quinn is on a forced vacation back in her tiny home town of Liberty Lake, Washington. At least Kara believes it is merely a mandatory vacation, and it’s not like she doesn’t have plenty of leave to burn and an equal amount of job and life related PTSD that she’s totally unwilling to acknowledge – let alone deal with.

That there is crap going on back in LA that will be resolved ‘better’ in her absence – for select and bureaucratic definitions of ‘better’ and questionably ‘better’ for whom – is something that her boss is keeping from her. And he’s probably right to do so.

Which doesn’t make actually taking a vacation any easier for Kara, who would much rather be working than thinking of all the crap that went wrong in her most recent case. No matter how happy she is to spend time with her grandmother who lives outside the tiny town.

Kara doesn’t exactly WANT to discover a dead body on the shores of Liberty Lake. But that doesn’t stop her from seizing the opportunity to assist the FBI’s understaffed and still not fully together Mobile Response Team when it rolls up to investigate the murder.

Because the body that Kara found has all the hallmarks of being the first in the latest round of murders committed by the infamous Triple Killer. An organized serial killer who seems to have made no mistakes so far, to have left no clues and no trace evidence behind, as he carries out his mission. Even though, at least so far – the FBI’s best profiler can’t determine what that mission is.

All that is known is that once every three years, beginning on March 3, the Triple Killer murders three seemingly random victims, three days apart. Then goes dormant for three years, only to start again in a different city, in a different state, leaving the same calling card – three bodies, killed by the single stroke of a double-sided blade from left shoulder to right hip, crossed by three post-mortem cuts across the abdomen, with the body displayed in a ceremonial fashion in a place where it will be discovered eventually but not immediately.

It’s a race against time as FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Costa and his barely together Mobile Response Team invade tiny Liberty Lake in the desperate hope of finding the Triple Killer before he completes his mission and retreats into the shadows for another three years.

Costa needs all the help he can get. Kara needs a case to keep her mind occupied while she waits to discover what is happening with the case back in LA. And the killer is compelled to complete his self-appointed mission at all costs.

There aren’t going to be any winners in this one, as there have already been too many deaths. Keeping the body count from getting any higher, is going to have to be win enough for Quinn & Costa.

If they can.

Escape Rating A: I’m not at all sure that the blurb for this one even begins to do it justice, but the book was everything I hoped it would be. And I came into it with some damn high hopes!

The Third to Die had every single thing that I loved in the later books in this series, with the added element of putting the team together that can be so much fun when it’s done right – as it is in this first book in the Quinn & Costa series.

(Sometimes the heavy lifting of getting the team in place can really bog down a first series book, but that absolutely was NOT the case here. My perspective may be a bit skewed because I’ve already read the later book so I’ve seen this team together, which leads me to the conclusion that you really can start this series anywhere and buckle up for a seriously compelling ride no matter where you begin.)

One of the things I love about this series is the stellar ‘competence porn’. Costa, his hand-picked team, and ‘volunteer’ Quinn are all top-notch in their fields of expertise, and it shows in the way the case goes from a thin file on an elusive killer to a full profile over the course of a few, short, intense days.

And while that profile is built by the team’s crack profiler still back home in DC, the way the case gets broken so that profile can be built comes primarily from Quinn’s uncanny ability to think very far outside the box. Her investigative instincts combined with her outsider perspective means that she asks questions that no one has ever asked before – because she doesn’t know which questions have and have not been asked and doesn’t really care whose toes she steps on along the way.

Which leads back to that last case in LA, but not yet. (The case comes up in the next three books in the series, and it looks like the issues – or at least some of them – are going to be investigated more thoroughly – if not resolved – in the fifth book in the series, The Missing Witness, which, dammit, I’m going to have to wait until January for.)

What keeps The Third to Die moving at its breakneck pace – in spite of its length – is the ticking clock the team is driven by every single minute. The Triple Killer kills on March 3, March 6, and March 9. Kara Quinn discovers the body on the morning of March 3. The team has to get from Washington DC to Washington state and hit the ground running, with less than 72 hours until the next body drops. They have no leads, no motives, no suspects. And not just one but two local jurisdictions who are less than thrilled with the FBI operating on their turf without so much as a ‘by your leave’.

So it’s political, and it’s desperate, and it’s a race against time every step of the way. And it’s impossible for the reader – or at least this reader – to stop turning pages until it’s done.