Annabel Lee: A Coffey & Hill Novel by Mike Nappa (review)

annabellee_nappa_revellFourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden.
The secret’s name is Annabel Lee.

She doesn’t know why her enigmatic uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Miles away in Atlanta, private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious older man calling himself Dr. Smith. He’s been trailing a man for a decade–a man she met through her ex-partner Samuel Hill–and the trail has led him to her office. The last thing Trudi wants to do is to contact Samuel. But it will take both of them to unravel this mystery–before it’s too late. (from the publisher’s website)

I never thought I would want to gush about a thriller, but this hit an unknown sweet spot for me.  Action, suspense, a child in jeopardy, evil bad guys with many minions, heroes and a heroine that you want to root for.

As much as I want to gush, I don’t want to be the one to spoil any of the suspense, so I will simply share a few of the things that I enjoyed that are not too plot related.

The story is told from three points of view, with only Annabel’s being in first person. Annabel lives on a farm in Peachtree, Alabama.  She is months away from her twelfth birthday, and has been home schooled by her uncle. When she is left in the bunker with the guard dog, she does not understand why.  We experience this through her eyes.

It didn’t occur to me to mark days or nights during that first wake time when Truck locked me inside here.  I had other things on my mind, like particularly, a mean, finger-eatin’ German Shepherd growling low and heavy in my direction. (p.50)

While I appreciated having this point of view, and thought it was a great choice to make her chapters more personal, she does not always come across as an eleven year old to me. However, she was describing things to the reader that a typical eleven year old might not have the ability to communicate well.  And as she herself would tell you, she is “an educated girl.”

Trudi Coffey has a degree in English lit but now works as a private investigator.  Her part of the narrative is told in third person, and it is in her sections that we get to know Samuel Lee, her ex-husband (a descriptor that she generally follows up mentally with “the pig”)  and former business partner.

Trust, that was his weakness.  In spite of everything, he still trusted her.  He assumed that she was still his partner, that she would never betray him or go rogue without warning him. (p. 165)

The third perspective is that of an Iraq veteran known as The Mute.  Also told in third person, it is primarily in his sections that we learn more about Leonard Truckson’s past.  Having his perspective was a surprise to me, and I am so glad that the author chose to let us into his head.

“I’ll never understand why a man like you would fight for a country that enslaved your people like this one did.  Still, there’s no accounting for taste, right?”

Has just enough of an accent to give away his heritage in the Middle East, The Mute told himself, but still speaks English well.  This was clearly an educated enemy, probably with a college degree from some university in Massachusetts or New York,  and a student visa in his trash can back home. (p.185)

If this had been an action movie rather than a book, I think that the portrayal of the villains might have gone over the top – as they often seem to do when the characters are of Middle Eastern or German origins.   Here, while they are extreme characters, the author seems to have used enough restraint that they are not overblown.

I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters, and cannot wait to read the next book.  I’m looking forward to more of Trudi Coffey, and I’m sure that Samuel Lee will continue to grow on me.  She is smart, a bit sassy, and holds her own while being aware of her physical limits.  I also liked that she called on her faith and specific Bible verses to remind herself not to become bitter about her divorce and the circumstances that led to it. And for the book-ish among us, she has a great collection of classic detective fiction in her office as well as an edition of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe that figures in to this first story.

The characters are interesting, the storyline compelling, and the action is riveting.  I read this straight through with a few necessary breaks to eat and sleep.  The resolution is satisfying and everything is wrapped up nicely, including a much appreciated epilogue.

I am officially a fan of the Coffey & Hill series, and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller or action oriented story with a strong female lead.  I’ve already added book 2, whose title The Raven (and publisher’s description here) promises continued Poe references, to my anticipated releases for this fall.  5/5 stars.

Annabel Lee: A Coffey & Hill Novel by Mike Nappa | Revell, 2016 | paperback, 368pgs

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”