Deborah Jenkins pulls her coat around her as she sets out on her short walk home in the pouring rain. But she never makes it home that night. And she is never seen again …
Four years later, an abandoned baby girl is found wrapped in dirty rags on a doorstep. An anonymous phone call urges the police to run a DNA test on the baby. But nobody is prepared for the results.
The newborn belongs to Deborah. She’s still alive.
*Synopsis and photo from Goodreads
*Thank you to the publisher, Bookouture, and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Next Girl is the first book in the Detective Gina Harte series by Carla Kovach. And what a solid start for a new series this is. Deborah Jenkins has gone missing without a trace. And despite the police’s effort to find her, it leads to a dead end. Now, four years later, her family is slowly starting to move on and start anew. But then, an abandoned baby was found in front of the library. After a mysterious call asking the police to run a DNA test on the baby, it showed that the baby is Deborah’s. It can only mean one thing, Deborah is still alive and is possibly being held against her will. Detective Gina Harte was tasked to handle the case. And since she was also the one who investigated Deborah’s case when she’s gone missing, Gina is determined to find her the soonest possible time. Because a closer inspection to the baby suggests that Deborah gave birth without a professional help, and thus, she might need medical attention. But can Gina find her now when she already failed the first time?
The book got an interesting plot, it is heartbreaking but very compelling, too. It opened with a murder scene and we got a glimpse of how unstable the perpetrator is and how this situation escalated his obsession with Debbie. I was immediately hooked. It was told on multiple POVs: Gina, Luke, Debbie, and the kidnapper, which gives us wider scope on what’s happening not only on the detective working the case but also the missing woman and her family.
The characters felt realistic and well-developed and it was easy to sympathize with them. Not only with Debbie’s horrific experience with her abductor but also with her family’s loss. Her hardship is palpable but her strong determination to go back to her family kept her alive. Luke, her husband, has conflicting emotions of wanting to move on with someone else yet the guilt gnaws at him. Add the baby and the hope that his wife is still alive and suffering, his confusion is to be expected. Gina, on the other hand, is another flawed detective, our main character. I can name at least two other books with the same theme and I’m kind of getting tired of it even though they all have different issues and experiences. Anyway, Debbie’s case affected Gina in so many ways. Not only because it was her unsolved case from years ago but it also brings back a past she’d rather forget. She has been in an abusive relationship and though her husband is dead for a long time, she still can’t tell her daughter about it. It doesn’t matter that Hannah didn’t really get to know her father or their relationship as mother and daughter are falling apart. She just has to keep everything that has happened a secret. Which honestly is something I can’t understand. Is her dead husband worth protecting when it’s costing you your daughter? I don’t think so. But despite that, Gina is a solid main character just the same.
I pretty much enjoyed this police procedural and the details that were put into it, albeit the slow pacing and lack of any surprising twist. It is predictable and I even had an easy time figuring out the bad guy, still, it kept my interest. I could do without the cold and mucus talk, though. I don’t even see it’s relevance to the story yet it took up a lot of space. I also appreciate the camaraderie between the police officers and the somewhat friendly working environment they had going. The last few chapters of the book are thrilling and exciting and quite satisfying. I was a bit disappointed at the ending as I was hoping to read more about what happened after to Luke and his family but instead was focused on Gina and her daughter. Their issue still isn’t fully resolved so I guess it will be resurfacing on the coming books. Overall though, it is a decent thrilling novel and I’m looking forward to getting to know more of Gina Harte.