by Laura Griffin
(Pocket, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-1-439-15296-6
Though involving two much-anticipated characters, Laura Griffin's latest Tracers installment, Unforgivable, is a bit of a floundering mess. Dr. Mia Voss, a DNA analyst for the much-lauded Delphi Center, has recently been demoted for the sin of losing her security badge. One trip to the grocery store for a bit of chocolate therapy throws her whole life into a tailspin – or was Mia already a target?  Detective Ric Santos quickly comes to believe that the attempt on Mia's life and the ensuing death of a retired police officer was far from random.

The problems with Mia being the target are legion. For one, though Ric and Mia have known one another professionally for some time and dabbled in a flirtation, Ric doesn't know enough about the woman to figure out what she's lying about, which ticks him off.  Mia's intentionally keeping secrets, and big ones. Another problem, though Mia's the only one who knows it for some time, is that Mia has been working cases for a long time. Mia didn't realize until her nephew's life is threatened just what lengths to which some people would go to gain such information as she's garnered over the years.  Destroying evidence may very well destroy a career to which Mia is fully dedicated, but being stubborn is another one of the reasons she's a horrible victim.

The evidence Mia is coerced into destroying if from one of Ric's cases – one that is quickly going cold.  And, since she has his ear, Mia suggests to him that that particular case may tie to another cold case, one she remembers from some years past.  Ric refuses to share any details with Mia, even though he insists that she have police protection and is spending a great deal of time with her.  In fact, he tracks her down when she uses her friend Alex's (from a previous novel) talents for making people disappear. 

Regardless of their similar goals (solving this string of crimes and keeping Mia and her family safe), the two remain on different pages for a majority of the novel, even when each makes the conscious decision to get naked with the other – yes, to scratch an itch, but also to get under the person's skin.  Ric knows enough about Mia to know that she'll have to trust him to sleep with him.  Mia knows herself well enough to understand that part of what drew her so close to these cases was the similar rape and murder of her teenage sister, twenty years before. 

Both Ric and Mia are digging for answers, both professional and personal (Ric, though Mia discovers this through the grapevine, was cheated on by his ex-wife).  Both are compelling characters in their own right, and their romance – un-romantic though it may be – is just right. 

The storyline in Unforgivable, however, quickly becomes tangled.  Readers will assume that the numerous and hard-to-track crimes are related, but no one's motives or methods become clear until the last third of the book.  Griffin does expertly lead the reader on a merry chase trying to figure out who Mia's shooter is, however; though a number of clues are given about a former military man, in Mia's world there are a number of those.

All in all, Unforgivable is a forgivably drab mystery with a pretty spicy romance thrown in.  Though fans of Griffin will wish for something more like One Last Breath or Untraceable, Unforgivable will certainly not keep them from picking up the next installment in the loosely-tied series.

--Sarrah Knight

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