Little Girls Sleeping
by Jennifer Chase
He looked down at the little girl, sleeping peacefully, her arms wrapped around a teddy bear. He knew he was the only one who could save her. He could let her sleep forever.
An eight-year-old girl, Chelsea Compton, is missing in Pine Valley, California and for Detective Katie Scott it’s a cruel reminder of the friend who disappeared from summer camp twenty years ago. Unable to shake the memories, Katie vows she won’t rest until she discovers what happened to Chelsea.
But as Katie starts to investigate, the case reveals itself to be much bigger and more shocking than she feared. Hidden deep in the forest she unearths a makeshift cemetery: a row of graves, each with a brightly coloured teddy bear.
Katie links the graves to a stack of missing-persons cases involving young girls—finding a pattern no one else has managed to see. Someone in Pine Valley has been taking the town’s daughters for years, and Katie is the only one who can stop them.
And then another little girl goes missing, snatched from the park near her home.
Katie’s still haunted by the friend she failed to protect, and she’ll do anything to stop the killer striking again—but can she find the little girl before it’s too late?
I love it when I get a heads up on a new series, and with this being the first book in the Detective Katie Scott series I’m convinced it’s going to be a winner.
Katie Scott has just returned from serving in Afghanistan, and is met at the airport by her uncle who just happens to be the local Sheriff. Having lost her parents years before, he is the closest family she has left, and theirs is a beautiful relationship – his surprise for her is the best ever: Cisco her service dog, who Uncle has brought back from Afghanistan, and who is waiting ready to save her life again. (and he does – but I’ll say no more)
Unsure about her future, and clearly with some trauma to deal with, Katie – an ex-cop with Sacramento PD herself – now takes on an admin role at her uncle’s police station to give herself time to consider her options.
When filing away cold cases, she sees the file for Chelsea Compton and is mentally drawn into the investigation. Chelsea went missing four years ago, and the trail has gone cold. For Katie, it brings back memories of her own friend who was killed twenty years ago during a camping holiday. She has always wondered if she could have done something, even then as a young girl.
So, with the bit between her teeth, she turns her spare room into an investigation zone and quietly draws up a list of people she wants to talk to. Unfortunately, the first person on that list also tells a certain detective, Templeton, the investigating officer at the time, who is not best pleased by her meddling. Keen to cast aspersions on her ability and her relationship with the Sheriff, Templeton goes out of his way to belittle her and sideline her enquiries.
But Katie has more gumption than that, and doesn’t take kindly to sitting on the sidelines. When she manages to convince her uncle to let her pursue her investigation, no one expected her to find the body of Chelsea and another young girl during a hike with Cisco (who really should get the credit for luring her into the area where the bodies were found 😉 )
Now, the hunt is on to find the killer – The Toymaker – especially when another young girl goes missing.
The story is told from Katie’s viewpoint primarily, but is interspersed with chapters dedicated to the killer, where he outlines his motive, his methods and his intention – but never his identity …until Katie gets too close to the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Katie’s character is well-rounded, her past still haunts her and that is evident in her behaviour. Luckily she has the support of her uncle and aunt, as well as Chad, an old friend from her childhood. The interplay between these characters is charming, as they clearly care a lot for her. That doesn’t mean to say she has an easy ride, as Templeton is determined to undermine her, and not in the cleverest of ways either!
The descriptions of the area and the crime scenes are strong and pulled me further into the story, and the last few chapters are tense and dramatic.
I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review. If you’re interested in starting a new series based around cold cases with determined and complex characters, then this is for you.
The book is released on May 31st, but you can pre-order your copy here