Kerley creates a hip and stylish mystery set in Miami with a very contemporary feel. Newly arrived from Kentucky to join the Florida Center for Law Enforcement (FCLE), Detective Carson Ryder has been recruited by the colorful Captain Roy McDermott for his skills in thinking like the perpetrators he eventually outsmarts. McDermott has put together a crack team at the FCLE, opting to put Ryder in charge of a recent case: the discovery of a concrete pillar built of human remains. While the forensic pathologist begins to separate human bones from concrete filler, Ryder is taken to meet his new coworkers, none of whom regard him with either curiosity or friendly overtures. They all claim to have other, more pressing cases, leaving only one team member to work with Ryder—Ziggy Gershwin, who has lots of heart but few investigative skills as the newest member of the team save Ryder.
Undaunted, Ryder begins his investigation of a bizarre case in an unfamiliar place with his willing sidekick. The clues turn to an ugly suspicion that the bodies are the collateral damage of local human trafficking. Ratcheting up the suspense- and the outrageous criminal enterprise that uses helpless women for profit, Kerley shifts between the investigation into the identities of the victims and the activities of a lucrative network that has perfected the art of human trafficking. Its operations range from luring young women from destinations as far away as Honduras to the carefully controlled smuggling of a workforce into the United States, a route tested and refined, made feasible by bribes when necessary. It is a tightly run organization with a leader known to but a few, among them a clever and precise accountant, a violent enforcer, and the men who do his bidding. Among the terrified girls forced to do what they are told or suffer the consequences, including threats against their families back home, there is one brave soul who has not yet given up hope of escape.
Human trafficking is a blight that has spread internationally. By focusing on Miami, Kerley is able to flesh out the realities of such an enterprise, from the difficulty of uncovering reliable evidence to the manner of transport from one country to another, the movement across land to specific destinations and the safe houses where the new arrivals are indoctrinated and prepared to service the needs of clients, from wealthy salons to strip-mall massage parlors. Young women are forced into submission, drugged and raped, made aware of the futility and risk of escape. Meanwhile, the head of the Hydra remains aloof, secure in anonymity and beyond the reach of the law, a situation Ryder plans to address.
It’s an ugly story, everything resting on the actions of one brave girl who nearly succeeds only to be thrust into great danger at the hands of a monster that has purchased the right to do anything he wishes with her. As the column of bodies gradually reveals its secrets, Ryder draws closer to the man behind the enterprise. The investigation culminates in a dramatic showdown that exposes the corruption from top to bottom and stops a madman from enacting his fatal fantasy. Kerley’s plot is timely and energetic, salted with eccentric personalities, tantalizing twists, and the vivid color of a vibrant city.