Title: Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt
Afton Tangler Series Book One
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 329 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
In the first Afton Tangler thriller, the unforgiving cold of a Minnesota winter hides the truth behind an even more chilling crime…
On a frozen night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.
As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.
But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing . . .
Little Girl Gone is the first installment in Gerry Schmitt’s new mystery series starring family liaison officer Afton Tangler. After a three month old baby is kidnapped, Afton takes full advantage of the unexpected opportunity to hone her detective skills when she gets to work alongside veteran detective Max Montgomery on the case.
A family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D. , Afton is a twice divorced mom of two daughters who is hoping to move through the ranks and eventually make detective. An avid outdoorswoman, she is intelligent and tenacious with a keen eye for detail. One of Afton’s strongest attributes is her ability to feel empathy for victims and she is determined to find Susan and Richard Darden’s missing baby.
While he appreciates modern technology, Max Montgomery is a little old school and relies on copious handwritten notes and good old-fashioned detective work to solve crimes. Believing the truth will be found in the details, he is an excellent mentor for Afton as he teaches her a few tricks of the trade during the investigation for the kidnapped baby. Max fully believes in Afton’s ability to become a topnotch detective and he always takes her suggestions seriously.
The investigation into the baby’s kidnapping yields few leads since there is very little evidence to go on initially. Knowing time is not on their side, Max and Afton quickly look into the Darden’s background. While the couple appear to be on the up and up, the detectives decide to dig a little deeper into Richard’s work history. While Max and Afton are still trying to get a clear picture of why he recently changed jobs, Susan stumbles across shocking information about her husband but does this new information have any bearing on the case?
While Max and Afton are looking into the Dardens, their most promising lead seems to involve a woman that Susan met at a doll show in a local mall. Drawn to the woman’s display of “reborn” dolls that eerily resemble real babies, Susan eagerly shows off pictures of her baby Emily Ann as the doll maker tries to convince her to commission a doll that will look exactly like her daughter. With little more than a nondescript likeness of the doll maker, will their investigation turn up any viable information about the mystery woman?
Although Max and Afton are fully rounded, interesting characters, some of the other characters (including the kidnappers and an overly ambitious reporter) are woefully underdeveloped. While the identity of the kidnappers is known from the beginning, the motive for the crime is not initially apparent. It is quite intriguing watching Max and Afton slowly sift through the evidence to find the information that will break the case wide open. Although the finale of Little Girl Gone is highly improbable, Gerry Schmitt delivers a pulse-pounding and dramatic conclusion that will completely satisfy readers. All in all a nice beginning the Afton Tangler Thriller series that fans of police procedurals will enjoy.