cover image Caged


Ellison Cooper. Minotaur, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-17383-6

Cooper leaves no serial killer thriller cliché behind in her debut, starting with a lead burdened with a tragic backstory. FBI special agent Sayer Altair’s parents died in a car crash, and her fiancé, a fellow agent, was killed on duty under mysterious circumstances. Sayer’s research into the brain patterns of murderers is put on hold when the emaciated corpse of Gwendolyn Van Hurst, an ambitious senator’s teenage daughter who went missing a year earlier, is found in a cage in the basement of a Washington, D.C., house. The victim’s captor booby-trapped the building, and more than one investigator is either wounded or killed. The search for the girl’s killer gains urgency after Sayer learns another caged captive may still be alive. Readers should be prepared for melodramatic writing (“As Sayer drifted off to sleep, she vowed to herself that she would find that girl if it was the last thing she did”) and implausible law enforcement decisions (Sayer is content to wait a day for access to vital government records stored in an office closed for the weekend). Hopefully, Cooper will do better next time. Agent: Amy Tannenbaum, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (July)