Down the Broken Road: A Rachel Carver Novel

J.R. Backlund. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-68331-740-1

Backlund’s disappointing sequel to 2017’s Among the Dead finds former North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation special agent Rachel Carver, who quit the SBI after she shot and killed a murder suspect, Lauren Bailey, in self-defense, searching for work as a private investigator. A call from a Siler City detective interrupts Carver’s job search: her friend Bryce Parker, a Raleigh Herald reporter, is in the hospital recovering from a near-fatal heroin overdose. Someone kidnapped Parker, she learns, and injected him with the drug. Related events involving drugs, a recovery center, a scandalous affair, and a growing body count follow, all weighed down by increasingly flat prose. Meanwhile, Carver discovers a link between the deaths of Bailey and her former boyfriend, platoon leader Sgt. Tyler Larson, with a military cover-up in Afghanistan. Backlund supplies a surfeit of forgettable supporting characters, but readers who admire strong female leads will want to see more of the intriguing Carver. Agent: Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Folio Literary Management. (Oct.)