by Ingrid Thoft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewed through Amazon Vine program
Ingrid Thoft’s latest in her Fina Ludlow series, ‘Brutality’, is superb. It’s the story of Liz Barone, aging college soccer star who suffers from migraines and other mental problems stemming from her hard-charging days as a collegiate sports super star. Before she can get her lawsuit against her alma mater launched, she is murdered. Private Investigator Fina Ludlow is brought in to bring the guilty party to justice. It doesn’t take long for Fina to find out there’s a lot more behind this brutal murder than appears.
I’ve never read this author before, but several characteristics grabbed my attention immediately. First was Thoft’s syntax. At first, the awkwardness of the tightly structured sentences that overflowed with lots of information but little emotion pushed me away from Fina Ludlow. It didn’t take long before I realized this was a true reflection of Fina–tight and controlled, but chock full of so much more. She’s the only daughter of a controlling highly-successful lawyer father and the sibling to two brothers who dutifully followed in Daddy’s footsteps. Rather than become yet another lawyer in the family empire–what her father expected–this gorgeous, sexy woman applies her razor-sharp intellect to unravel evidence as an investigator. Don’t expect the hard-charging, tough-as-nails investigator that so often people thrillers. Fina is classy, cultivated, calm, empathetic, and human in both her thoughts and actions.
The story provides lots of procedural insights into criminal investigations from the PI side. Here’s an early line:
“Family members were always prime suspects and had the most information about a victim’s other relationships. Many times it was what family members failed to discuss that was most critical; unanswered questions or tactful evasions often pointed Fina in the right direction.”
Another thing I like about Fina–though it makes me wince at times–is she has incredibly thick skin. I enjoyed reading how she invariably parried rudeness with humor. Here’s one example as a security guy manning the entrance to a scientific lab ignores Fina’s repeated efforts to question him:
“Through the metal detector, take the elevator to the eighth floor,” he gestured [after ignoring all of Fina’s questions].
“Let’s stay in touch, Louis,” Fina said…:
Because the story is predominantly told through Fina’s eyes, we the reader get to know her quite well–what she eats, her repressed emotions and subconscious reactions, why she does pretty much everything, how she makes decisions and choices. The more I know, the more I liked this moral, kind-but-tough woman who despite everything finds it’s important to be true to her word and protect those unable to do that for themselves. In so many ways, Fina reminds me of Taylor Stevens’ Vanessa Michael Munroe. Both are unusual female protagonists who dominate their novels.
That’s it. If you like strong female action-oriented protagonists, don’t miss this novel.
More strong female protagonists in thrillers:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.