A Voice from the Field
Neal Griffin
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Buy *A Voice from the Field* by Neal Griffinonline

A Voice from the Field
Neal Griffin
304 pages
February 2016
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Griffin reprises the Newberg Police Department in Wisconsin in his new thriller, Ben Sawyer now chief and his detective. Tia Suarez--who was nearly killed when coming to his aid--has returned to duty after recovering from her wounds. Their relationship, cemented in the chaotic and violent Benefit of the Doubt, has grown more fractious. Tia suffers from PTSD since her near-fatal injuries and information she learned while recuperating in Mexico with her family. After an emotional meltdown when testifying in court, Tia has fulfilled the requirements to return to duty but remains plagued by nightmares she keeps to herself. The only man she really trusts is Connor Anderson, an ex-military vet like herself.

Working undercover one evening as a prostitute on the stroll, Tia is approached by the local leader of a white supremacist group, Gunther Kane. Instead of bartering for sex, Kane and his accomplice attempt to grab Suarez and throw her into the back of their van. She barely escapes, struggling with the 300-pound Kane, but catches a glimpse of a young Latina woman in the van before her team arrives and the vehicle speeds away. Though Kane is arrested, Tia’s demand that fellow officers search for the van and the girl is ignored, everyone assuming it another example of her PTSD. She is enraged when Kane is released after a few days.

Though Ben Sawyer, the main protagonist in Griffin’s prior novel, feels badly for Detective Suarez, as Chief he is constrained by procedure in dealing with her discontent, taking a supporting position as Suarez assumes the mantle of primary character. And while a male renegade detective makes for a compelling drama, Suarez’s rage and actions are not tolerated by the department, her fellow officers, or the chief. She withdraws, resorting to alcohol and prescription meds to deal with her certainty of a girl in trouble, tormented by the thought that the young woman has no one to help her. Between her self-doubt and inability to stop drinking, Suarez becomes an unpredictable detective often sabotaging herself.

The inner dialogue of a woman on a downward trajectory is predictably tedious, but the near-kidnapping by Kane has opened up the possibility of a an unreported crime wave in Newberg unsuspected by local authorities, Kane purchasing weapons for the North Aryan Front, the enterprise potentially bankrolled by prostitution and drug trafficking. By the time Sawyer tempts Suarez back to duty on what may be a vital investigation, the Feds are showing interest in Newberg’s case. If Kane and his fellow white supremacists are a growing threat, Suarez is in--provided Sawyer allows her to search for the girl she saw in the van.

Griffin uses contemporary threats to illustrate the nature of small-town policing and the proliferation of criminal activity linked to drugs, prostitution, gun-running, and human trafficking. Beyond the need to build solid cases to stand up in trial, there are also jurisdictional issues when the federal government is at cross-purposes with local objectives, another area for volatile conflicts. Suarez is the incendiary device that blows everything apart in A Voice from the Field, her passion a catalyst and an obstacle, a character losing ground, in my opinion, but Griffin’s portrayal of a female cop as emotional and unpredictable to control her actions. She deserves the same respect for outside-the-law tactics as Ben Sawyer did in Benefit of the Doubt.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2016

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