“The Eleventh Victim” is a complex murder mystery about a woman who loses her fiance in a senseless crime and then embarks on a career as a prosecutor. The author, Nancy Grace, was herself a prosecutor in Atlanta GA and she brings her knowledge of the (in)justice system and writes with compelling authority about the twists and turns ‘justice’ can take.
Hailey Dean’s finace was violently murdered shortly before their wedding during a mugging, for a whopping total of $35. The crime propels the young college graduate into a depression that lifts only when she decides to go after the criminals who perpetrate such crimes. She becomes a prosecutor who fights for the victims left behind and her record is nothing short of stellar, 100 wins, no losses. She doesn’t DO ‘deals’. Instead, she and her investigator sidekick put together strong evidence that results in convictions. Her last case as a prosecutor involved the conviction of a serial killer for the murders of eleven women. When the verdict is read, the killer leaps toward Hailey in the courtroom and is only tackled AFTER she feels his hands close around her neck. That’s the moment when Hailey knows she’s done. Now it’s two years later and Hailey has moved to New York and is a practicing therapist. But when two of her patients are murdered and Hailey’s DNA is found at the scenes, her life takes a violent and terrifying turn. Now SHE’s the one on the defensive and who, exactly, is after her, isn’t clear.
This is author Nancy Grace’s first foray into the world of mystery/thriller/fiction and I sometimes got lost in the stories of ‘sidebar’ characters which include a rich man trying to circumvent environmental protections, a good-ole-boy crooked judge, a friend’s new love affair, and a very rich, but very pissed, defense attorney. All these ‘other’ stories do tie in to the main story, but for me, they mostly detracted from the story at the heart of the book…Hailey’s story.
I was left with many questions regarding Hailey’s future and also that of a ‘wrongly’ paroled serial killer! For me at least, I need closure in a book. But the serial killer just fades out and Hailey decides to return to Georgia…to do what I have no idea. That’s not a real ending for me.
The plot was clever and even though I quickly figured out the ‘bad guy’ (other than the serial killer), there were still plenty of red herrings. I did find the flow of the story choppy as it jumped from the side character’s stories to Hailey’s story regularly. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of who was doing what! Ms. Grace’s disgust with ‘special interest’ politics comes through loud and clear and her portrayal of bargaining and dealing to cater to political aspirations was enough to make me believe some of those bad lawyer jokes…
In the end I did finish “The Eleventh Victim” and I did find it interesting. I must admit that I would be wary of reading Nancy Grace’s next novel without getting a better idea of its pace and flow and how she pieced the story together. But I consider an author’s first novel a kind of learning experience for both author and reader and I like to think we both get better with age and experience.