After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.
Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Meadows.
She’s never felt more alone.
Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancé wants them to begin their life together—now—precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.
With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancé will make things better—or worse.
Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.
About the Author
Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism.
She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories.
In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.
Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.
My first encounter with a Raleigh Harmon novel I was impressed; the second encounter I was engrossed; the third encounter I was insatiable–I couldn’t read the lyrical words fast enough while simultaneously dreading the speed at which I devoured the words drawing me closer to the end. I feel like I know Raleigh as intimately as a dear friend and confidant, partly thanks to the crisp and poignant first person narrative. She is a complex character that continually evolves while maintaining the strength and integrity that make her so endearing.
Identity was a struggle for Raleigh throughout this novel. She wrestles with admitting what she truly desires from life because she knows that, inevitably, there will be heartbreak and the end one of the most defining parts of her life. With her mother’s fractured mental health, limited communication with her fiancé who is pressuring to reshape her life, and threats from Internal Relations of the FBI, Raleigh is in both physical and emotional isolation. Her struggle with the forced deception necessary for her undercover assignment acts like a mirror to her innermost longings and fears, revealing that she has been deceiving herself on the path her life is meant to take and what her heart truly longs for. Emotional conflict is just as much her nemesis as faceless threat she seeks to draw out of the shadows.
Sibella’s writing is so sensory with each descriptive line breathing life into finite details, thus creating an all encompassing experince for the reader. The clicking of horse hooves, the laboured breathing of exertion, the sweet smell of hay juxtaposed by the heady grease of Raleigh’s cornary clogging meals–all of these elements soared off the page so it was no longer words that remained, but experience. I how I love when a book lets me experience the story instead of telling me the story!
The plot continually developed with twists that muddied the waters of truth each time I though I had finally figured out the mystery. The true antagonist is cleverly disguised amidst the clues that are astutely sprinkled throughout the narrative. Tension is eased with unexpected but perfectly timed humorous breaks facilitated through snappy and witty dialogue. A major perpetrator of those dry humour moment is Jack. He may be characterized as a rogue on the surface with his off the cuff remarks and actions, but Sibella is slowly chipping away at his core and I like what she is finding! Eleanor–a Tennessee Williams spouting spunky geriatric who calls all the shots–is a strong second for must humorous character.
I am eagerly anticipating the next installment in the Raleigh Harmon series. Her story is far from done-in fact, it is just beginning!
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**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**