All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Dangerous Echoes by Leisl Leighton

on September 13, 2018

Dangerous Echoes (Echo Springs #1)
Leisl Leighton
Harlequin MIRA
2018, 143p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Blue lights in the red dust…Echo Springs on the edge of the outback – a town where everyone knows your name, and your business. But the wholesome country living and welcoming community aren’t what they used to be. Echo Springs has a dark underbelly, and it is seeping ever outward.

Brilliant forensic pathologist, Erika Hanson, fled from Echo Springs as a teenager, leaving behind a past of tragedy and pain. But when local police announce they’ve found her beloved brother’s body in a meth lab explosion, she knows she must return to clear Peter’s name and find out what really happened. Because Peter would never get involved with the drug tag sweeping across the small town of Australia and destroying lives.

Hartley Cooper has a past with Erika Hanson, but that’s not going to keep him from doing his job. He’s seen what grief can do, and denial is only the first step. But Erika is convinced that Peter can’t be involved, and her meticulous, professional skills start to convince Hartley as well. When Erika’s digging and questions get too personal, the town turns against them, Hartley knows Erika might run again. But this time he’s ready. And he’s not going to let her go.

Recently I received another bind up from Harlequin Australia, comprising of the first four novels in a new series, Echo Springs. All set in the same small town located in western New South Wales, this series revolves around a local police station and some of the regulars that come into contact with it. In this first book, forensic pathologist Erika Hanson returns to Echo Springs, something she never thought she’d do, answering an SOS from her brother Peter, who needs money. When she arrives she’s told by her teenage friend and now local police officer Hartley Cooper that Peter’s body has been found in a meth explosion.

Please be aware, the following two paragraphs contains some mild ***SPOILERS*** but I need to explain why I feel the way I do.

Erika is a woman who appreciates order and structure and she’s very sure of herself and her beliefs. There’s no way Peter would have undertaken to produce meth, even though he was a brilliant chemist. It’s not being considered a homicide and there’s currently no local pathologist so Erika takes it upon herself to autopsy her brother’s body. She doesn’t trust anyone else to get the answers she needs to discover why her brother would’ve gotten involved in such a thing and she’s certain that foul play is involved, despite Cooper’s insistence that it isn’t.

I’m not a forensic pathologist and I don’t claim to know anything about being one but I had a lot of difficulties with the way that this story went. Firstly, I don’t believe that anyone would be (or ever should be) allowed to perform an autopsy on their own brother’s dead body, no matter how calm and professional (and ‘unusual’) they are. Not when there are other options, and there are other options, they just require a wait. Also Erika is qualified in a different state and has no actual right to undertake this job but all it takes is one phone call to her boss in Melbourne to change everything. Why are there even rules then?  Especially considering she does the autopsy before she even gets permission, breaking into the hospital morgue (where she is for hours) to do it. I had serious issues with this – I don’t think it was okay at all and I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing in real life would render any evidence void in a court case. This did not make me admire Erika’s dedication, it made me consider her reckless and careless of procedure, which seemed at odds with the way her character was written. It made it seem like the rules do not apply to her and that she can just do whatever she likes, running roughshod over local authority and going over their heads to her boss in Melbourne to get her own way. Also the cops are so determined to rule this an accidental explosion in the meth lab, they don’t even wait until the fire investigation officers complete their report. It takes them about three minutes to realise it’s not just an unfortunate side effect of cooking a dangerous drug and that actually, the fire was 100% deliberately lit. This is not at all a surprise to the reader.

End ***SPOILERS***

Apart from a lot of the procedural things that bothered me, I didn’t mind the way this story set up the series. There’s something going on in the town, that’s definitely going to play a role in future books and I do like the feel of the town. I’m interested in seeing some of the other characters in their own books, most notably two of the police officers. I do think that this book got a bit bogged down in the middle and that there was just a lot of explanations about things going on and the momentum stalled a bit but it picked up again by the end. It’s definitely not a large book so at times the pacing felt a bit uneven. As I mentioned, I didn’t warm to Erika, I felt that a lot was done to kind of get the reader to feel sorry for her and it was true that she’d experienced a lot of trauma and horrible treatment as a child which has definitely affected her deeply. It seemed important that she find her peace with Echo Springs and that chapter of her life and being summoned back by Peter, even though things did not turn out quite the way she expected, has given her the opportunity to do that and given her the chance to reconnect with Hartley.

Ultimately though, there were a lot of things in this that made me a bit uncomfortable when reading them so this was a mixed bag.


Book #157 of 2018

Alternative cover when purchased singly


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