"It was supposed to be an easy job.
"Cake," Rick had said.
Sammy Dovitz tossed his binoculars onto the passenger seat then shifted restlessly within the confines of the black KIA. It should have been an easy job- no dog and no sign of an alarm installed. The large cottonwood in the front yard hid some of the two-story house and made it difficult to see what was going on upstairs, but the situation also worked to his advantage- he'd take mature landscaping over barren new lots any day. High hedges, shrubs, and towering trees made it possible to move around unnoticed."
Elusive by Sara Rosett is the first book in the "On the Run" series.
Starting out in Dallas, Texas, we meet Zoe Hunter- a fiery, red-head (aren't they always) who spends most of her time trying to support herself. She does a lot of odd-jobs, such as dog walking, but her main sources of income come from books she copy-edits for an independent travel company and office spaces her aunt gave her as early inheritance. Her aunt promised they would be a great investment. She rents out two of the offices.
One of those offices is rented by her ex-husband and his company (GRA- Green Recyclable Services). It's a company he started and co-owns with Connor (a man with great disdain for any digital technology). They have a secretary named Sandra and that's it. Three employees. Jack handles all the computer work (because of Connor's aversion) except the accounts, which Connor handles. Together, the three of them manage to scrape by and the company's stocks seem to be increasing in value surprisingly quickly.
Zoe and Jack may be ex-spouses, but they still share the house. Not because they want to, but because they can't afford to sell it or get their own places. So they have a very delicate set-up designed to give them their own spaces and keep them apart. Zoe has the entire downstairs, while Jack gets the upstairs. Jack uses the front door, Zoe uses the back. This ensures they never meet. Jack doesn't even use the kitchen, he has a hot plate and mini-fridge upstairs that is apparently all he requires.
Returning to his office after lunch one day, Jack finds something amiss. Sandra is out at the orthodontist and has been given the rest of the day off, but Connor should be there. He should be able to hear him from his own office. And someone has used his computer. As he stares at the screensaver and blinks the screen into life, he finds his bank account on the monitor. All of his company shares are sold, including ones he didn't own. There is now twelve million dollars in shares. Much more than they had. Opening his drawer he finds his gun, that he leaves at home, in the attic.
Later, Zoe gets a visit from the police. They found Jack's car at the side of a bridge. Someone reported seeing a man getting swept away down the river. The story goes that Jack tried to seek cover under the bridge from the tornado that passed by earlier in the day. He must have slipped on the bank and fallen into the fast-moving water below. The police aren't hopeful.
Zoe is in a daze. She doesn't know how to feel. Going to his office to let Sandra and Connor know that Jack's missing, she instead finds it empty. There's an odd smell coming from the office and she follows it to Connor's door. Inside she finds Connor, a bullet hole through his forehead.
Now the FBI are involved. What started out as a search for a missing man has turned into a hunt for a fugitive. But Zoe can't believe that. Jack is not the type to cook the books then kill a man for the money and go AWOL. But now the FBI are very interested in her. She's the closest person to Jack. The only family he has is a cousin in Vegas. Zoe is his next of kin, which of course puts her in prime suspect position.
Realising that situation is quickly going from back to worse, Zoe thinks it's best to contact his cousin, Eddie. She goes upstairs to find his computer and locate Eddie's details. But calling the number, she finds two shocks in store. One, Eddie is a woman and two, she claims she doesn't know Jack then hangs up. Trying to call back she gets put through to voicemail. Irritated she accidentally knocks over his lamp and finds rolls of money hidden inside the base. Determined to find out more, she thoroughly checks the house and comes up with more money and two passports, one for a woman named Irena and the second for a Brian Kenneth McGee- who's photo is that of her ex-husband's.
Confused and afraid that the police will use this against her, she tries to make a decision. But when she finds the police coming back with a warrant, she chooses to run. Grabbing a few essentials, she decides on Vegas. If Eddie won't take her calls, she'll just have to go to her in person. Right now, she's the only lead Zoe's got.
With one partner dead and the other missing under suspicious circumstances - along with millions of dollars-the question of fraud and murder are only shadowed by one question- Where is Jack Andrews? Or for Zoe- Who is Jack Andrews? Discovering the answer will take her on a roller-coaster journey through Dallas, Vegas, Rome, Naples and Venice. Well, she's always wanted to see Italy.
The characters were typical of this genre. You have the bad guys, the good guys and the normals. Within the groups, you have the 'good guy who's not used to bad', the 'bad guy pretending to be good', the 'really bad guy', 'the betrayer', all the usual suspect that make this genre so formulaically enjoyable to read. I would put this story between cozy mystery and thriller. There are darker elements, but for the most part I would say it's more of a light-hearted read.
The ending was strong. It resolves on, literally, the last line and is most definitely an incentive to check out the next book. I was enthralled by the story. Those who are familiar with me will know I can't resist a good mystery- whether it be cozy or dark. I will be checking out the next part of the story and thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who likes a good whodunit, with a little humour and romance thrown in.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.