Author: C. Soto
Genre: Crime thriller
Publication Date: 21 August 2021
Available As: Paperback and e-book
What do you do when it’s late and you need a ride?
A serial killer is on the prowl, hunting on the Tampa streets. Leaving bodies in public displays as he goes along.
As the team searches for the killer, they discover even more victims. They are racing against time to find and save Sara alive.
When one member of the team catches the killer’s eye, can they keep that team member safe?
A Ride Home is the second in C. Soto’s Tampa FBI series of crime thrillers; being as I haven’t read the it, I can say that it isn’t absolutely necessary to have read the first book, Dare to Dream (ibid, 2021), to catch on with the plot of A Ride Home as the author does a pretty good job of introducing her main characters and establishing who they are and their familiarity with each other throughout the story.
The book follows a team of agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) comprised of team leader John, fellow agents James, Tammy, and Derrick, and consultant Emily. While the team are at the top of their game and have a strong reputation for closing cases on serial killers, their efforts are greatly aided by the fact that Emily has minor psychic abilities. Able to sense auras and moods, Emily also receives visions in her dreams that are instrumental to leading them to clues and connections between victims and their killers, and her abilities are completely accepted by John, her husband Derrick, the rest of the team, and even their superior officer without question.
From what I can tell from the synopsis of Dare to Dream, it seems as though the author delved into the specifics of Emily’s backstory and her powers in the first book, meaning that they’re largely underplayed here. I was a bit surprising that Emily and her abilities aren’t a larger focus of the story; she only really factors into the main plot when the team think she’ll be useful, which, to be fair, keeps her from being a Mary Sue or a deus ex machina but it also feels like she could have had a little more play into the narrative. Instead, it is John who takes the central focus of the book; a wealthy agent who likes to stay in top physical shape, John is absolutely devoted to his team and his job and has recently entered into a highly sexually charged relationship that finally gives him some hope for a life outside of the job.
Based on the team’s reputation, they are the natural choice to investigate a string of murders perpetrated by a serial killer who comes to be known (in passing) as “The Hacker”. As is the case in many crime thrillers, the author switches between telling events from the team’s point of view (usually always focusing on John) and from the killer’s perspective. Chapters are peppered with insight into the killer’s methods and warped philosophy; working as a taxi driver, of sorts, he selects his victims with purpose, lures them in with familiarity, drugs and kidnaps them, and spends a great deal of time torturing and mutilating them before presenting them as twisted art pieces. Like a lot of serial killers in stories such as this, the Hacker relishes in his anonymity and the thrill of the chase and specifically targets a member of John’s team just to see them desperately trying to figure out who he is and where he’s going to strike next.
When following John and his team, we generally see them reviewing crime scenes, going through the evidence, and chasing down leads; when not working on the case, they socialise like old friends and welcoming John’s girlfriend, Samantha, into their social circle. The author punctuates her text not just with depictions of torture and brutality when following the Hacker but also with depictions of an intense sexual nature, especially when depicting John and Samantha’s relationship. I was a bit surprised with this latter addition but quickly acclimatised to it (because who doesn’t enjoy a bit of sexy-time in their books?) and I found myself waiting on tenterhooks to see if the author acted on the clear sexual tension between Tammy and James.
Honestly, crime thrillers are not really my thing; I don’t watch crime shows and rarely ever read books in this genre as I often find it difficult to connect to the concept. The author does a pretty good job of talking the reader through F.B.I. procedures and using terminology that seems accurate and legitimate, and some of the scenes of the team going through evidence and such are pretty interesting, though she quite often falls into a bit of a trap of telling us what the team is up to and then having them (again, usually John) telling their chief or someone else information we already know. A Ride Home built a decent amount of suspense, especially as the circle began to close as the team and the killer’s paths began to close in on each other, but I have to say that it kind of lost me in the end with an anti-climatic resolution to the main plot and then the final three chapters of preamble simply to wrap up the interpersonal drama. Still, the book is definitely engaging overall and this in no way really ruins the experience; in many ways, this resolution is also very grounded and realistic rather than being a big, overly dramatic finale, and I’m sure that fans of crime thrillers will find plenty to enjoy here and probably be intrigued enough to check out the first book as well.
If you’re interested in checking out A Ride Home, the book is available to purchase on Amazon. To learn more about C. Soto and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of this review.