I've enjoyed most of the rest of the books in this series, but this one was just mediocre for me. It comes off as very unrealistic in both characterization and plot, but there was another element to it that I really can't put my finger on as to why I didn't like it as much as the others.
Sam and Nick have finally found mutual time for a vacation. It is the week before Thanksgiving, Congress is in recess and Sam has scheduled her leave to match her husband’s Senate schedule. Then events occur within just hours of each other that upset their plans, and gives us the suspense part of the plot. However, it winds up falling apart quickly. First, Nick goes ballistic when Sam cancels the out-of-town portion of their vacation to help her niece and figure out what happened to her. To expect Sam to leave a close family member lying unconscious in a hospital to go spend a few days lying in the sun consuming little drinks decorated with umbrellas, or staying at home to plan a lavish Thanksgiving dinner, is a reaction that is totally out of character for Nick, and made me see him as a major jerk for most of the book. I think that this scene was included strictly to force a second major crisis into the plot.
Secondly, Sam is allowed to work both cases, the multiple homicides and her niece’s gang-rape, even though it constitutes a conflict of interest as far as chain of custody for criminal proceedings is concerned. The author tries to justify this by saying that the father of one of the dead teens, a prominent D.C. criminal defense attorney, wants the best homicide detective in the city on the case. We are expected to believe that a defense attorney wants a detective with a conflict trying to find his son’s murderer, which didn't ring true for me at all. What grieving father would sabotage the case like that, unless he had something to hide?
This entry in the series may have come across to me as a contrived mess, with a lot of emotion and over-reactions, but it was a good read overall. Even with the secondary characters, there's a lot plot wise that just wouldn't happen in reality. As always, there are a few hooks left dangling for future novels, which I will wind up reading at some point.