My TBR has been stacked lately, and A Desperate Place came at an excellent time. I was in the mood for both a medical and a legal thriller, and Jennifer Greer's work hit all the points.
Whit, a former war correspondent and current local news reporter, is still recovering from the death of her husband in Afghanistan where they were working an unfortunately captured. She finds herself in the midst of a series of murders that are seemingly unrelated--or definitely murders, for that matter--until Riggs, the detective Medical Examiner, helps her find a link: each victim had a rare, but interesting tumor: a tetratoma, a monster tumor, that is directly related to embryonic stem cell therapy. Alternating between the legal investigation and Whit's story-chasing, we're given a fast-paced look at what happens behind the scenes from both angles. They have to find the killer before he strikes again, but how can you find a killer who's targeting high-profile clients with very little outward connections? Character development goes a long way in this book, especially considering the attention-grabbing conflict our MCs are faced with. Whit's flashbacks to her time in Afghanistan, to the painful, horrific moment in which she loses her husband, are extremely well done, and Greer does well breathing life into the tragedy. Riggs' battle with cancer and her subsequent connection to the victims also rang true, and I loved how well-rounded they were. I also appreciated the pacing and structure of this book. The chapters read quickly, the plot wasn't dense, and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story unfolded. It's a true talent to keep the reader guessing at the mystery until the very end, and Greer did a great job creating doubt and debunking suspicions. The banter/conversational parts were lovely. For my taste, though, I found some of the dialogue to be a little stinted. Characters had a tendency to speak in largely uninterrupted chunks, sometimes bordering monologue-tone. At times, there were strings of platitudes in a row, offering general, philosophical observations about life, hardship, love, tragedy, grief, etc. Those interactions took me out of the story, a bit, and I found myself less than interested in these parts. While incredibly interesting, I found the dialogue with medical professionals more of a verbatim dictionary read than a realistic conversational structure, and I wanted it to feel a little less forced. However, the information is fascinating, and I loved getting deeper knowledge about autopsy procedures, stem cell collection, and medical license practices. The details elevated the urgency and made for some visceral imagery. Overall, A Desperate Place is a wonderful, fast-paced read with solid characterization and interesting insight into reporting, medical procedures, and legal action. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a dishy thriller with real-world grit. Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for review consideration.