“Dead Girl Running” by Christina Dodd is a sprint read, a fast-paced page-turner. Those who liked her “Virtue Falls” novels will love this first book of a new series. It does not have the paranormal element or much romance, but the mystery is action-packed.
The novella is an introduction to the book, explaining Kellen’s time in Afghanistan, how she sustained the injury for a medical discharge, and how she recovered. In addition, the novella storyline introduces readers to the Monument Men that searched for artifacts taken by the Nazis. Kellen works with Gen. Lawrence Slater in trying to find some famous paintings hidden in a German cave. This leads to the book plot and explains some of Kellen’s backstory.
Dodd introduced this special organization in the short-story, but it plays a significant role in the book.
“I wrote about this because what they did was fascinating,” Dodd said. “It was an organization that was actually part of the Army during World War II. They were going around trying to save European art. I believe they were de-commissioned in 1946. I just brought them back through the character Nils Brooks. The terrorists are really looting and selling artifacts on the black market to fund their causes. Maybe the government will get an idea from this story.”
In the novel, there are two mysteries the main character, Kellen, is trying to solve: what happened during an earlier year of her life, after she was shot in the head, losing her memory for that period of time, and in current time, trying to discover who killed a woman found buried without her hands. Hired as an assistant manager of a remote vacation resort, Yearning Sands, she uses her former military skills to find the culprits. The intenseness of the backstory is very well developed through Kellen’s nightmares and flashbacks.
This book definitely gives a shout out to veterans. It shows how Cecilia Lykke a helpless and afraid abused wife uses her cousin’s name, Kellen Adams, to join the Army, becoming a tough and skilled military officer. Readers will understand through Cecilia’s eyes how she became a victim, frozen and unable to escape her predicament until her husband dies in a fire. Searching for family and a home Cecilia, now Kellen, finds it with her comrade in arms. Never forgetting this new family, after accepting the position at the resort, she hires those she served with knowing they are capable, resourceful, and able to use the skills learned.
The Washington setting becomes a character as the darkness spreads over the resort during the month of January. Located at the edges of the Pacific coast, it can be attractive in fair weather, but dangerous during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. It adds to the atmosphere of the story creating a dark and scary feeling.
It appears that coastal towns are fair game for this author. “: I want to get to a point where I own the Washington coast and every little town is mine with murders going on all the time. There are a lot of eccentric people who live here so I have a lot to go on. I wanted to make them tourist towns because it will be plausible for all these murders with people constantly wandering in and out. What makes it more suspenseful is that everything here is affected by the weather, with the extreme change from light to dark, during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. The weather is not an, ‘in passing conversation piece,’ but is actually an issue. The geography also plays into the plot with the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, and the desert. I have lived in many states including Texas, California, and Idaho. For me, this is the most expressive state.”
This “who done it” has a list that can go on forever. Kellen is unsure whom to trust. This includes Nils Brooks who impersonates a mild-mannered author with black-rimmed glasses that turns out to be a well-toned combat ready government official working for the MFAA, a revised agency that searches for smugglers who want to sell artifacts to fund terrorist organizations. This appears to be a shout out to Superman considering it is the 80th Anniversary where he was first introduced in an action comic book.
Smugglers, murder, and loss of memory are intertwined to make this a gripping story. With plenty of intriguing characters and twists and turns, including a major surprise twist at the book’s ending, readers will be left craving for more.