Strike Me Down
Mindy Mejia
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Buy *Strike Me Down* by Mindy Mejia online

Strike Me Down
Mindy Mejia
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Hardcover
352 pages
April 2020
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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A rather silly title for subject matter that's not really that interesting, Mejia's third novel tumbles us into the world of the billion-dollar kickboxing industry. Setting her novel in Minneapolis, Mejia's focus is on Nora Trier and her connection to famous kickboxer Logan Russo, the manager and CEO of the hit company Strike. Logan is considered a legendary athlete and feminist icon, the hero her fans have all flocked to see. As the novel opens, Nora has been contracted by Logan to look into the disappearance of 20 million dollars in prize money.

An experienced whistleblower of forensic fraud, Nora explains that fraud is a double-edged sword: opportunity and pressure, both existing ubiquitously "in a bloodless calculated crime." Forensic accountants like Nora are the ones who are smart enough to not only catch them but explain to a judge and jury how they did it. Given that Gregg Abbot, Logan's husband, is co-founder, there is a reason why the money needs to be found and someone ultimately needs to be held accountable.

Greg and Nora have a past, though Nora hasn't laid eyes on him in months. She had counted on never seeing him again. According to Gregg, Strike was about to undergo an aggressive expansion, and Logan wanted to provide a channel for that ferocity right in the heart of Minneapolis. Everyone's been planning for an event, and fighters from all over the metro and the world--men, women, amateurs and professionals--will be called to downtown Minneapolis this July to compete for prize money that has now gone missing.

Mejia centers on Nora's investigation into Strike's fraud case, missing Logan, and the mystery behind the death of Aaden Warsame, a Somalian refugee who was readying to be the face of "Strike Down," Logan's mega-popular kickboxing tournament. Dozens of questions swirl for Nora, and everyone on her team is eager to get started. The pressure is on: they have five days to find the money. Nora doesn't realize that Aaden is the spark that will blow Logan and Gregg apart. Perhaps the funds were merely mismanaged and overspent. Gregg is positive that he hasn't mismanaged the company, though his every move seems deliberate, as though the crime itself was obsessively planned and executed to perfection.

Unwilling to trust either Gregg or Logan, Nora treads cautiously. A figurative gunshot reminds Nora of the post-mortem images of Aaden's body. Beyond the tragedy, Gregg has given her team unprecedented access to Strike's books and people. He's been open, candid and unflinchingly honest, which makes Nora wonder what exactly he's hiding: "If Gregg Abbott wasn't average, his secrets wouldn't be either." Gregg has stood behind Logan for two decades, refining her edges and honing her message, molding her from a champion into an icon. Logan is also oddly mesmerizing to Nora in spite of the famous woman's connection to Aaden. Was Logan responsible for Aaden's death? Logan likes to play her cards close. To Gregg, she had seemed unattainable in that ring at the MGM where he first fell in love with her.

Nora's last encounter with Gregg flashes into her mind. He'd seemed precariously close to his limits, as if replaying violent memories of his wife with the managing partner of a proven fraud investigation. Nora is an experienced investigator, well aware that people like Gregg and Logan have killed and died for money: "Love might hurt, but money would strike you down forever."

Mejia obviously has an affinity with her subject matter. The forensic fraud elements are sort of interesting, especially when overlaid with Mejia's feminist themes. Yet character and accomplished prose can only take readers so far. When Nora's investigation finally falls into place, we are forced to suspend disbelief. Not to be defeated, the murderer is exposed just in time to vindicate Nora's forensic skills and show that women like Logan will live to fight another day.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Michael Leonard, 2020

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