If a series debut rests squarely on the shoulders of the lead protagonist, Joanna Schaffhausen’s Gone for Good could hardly ask for a more worthy advocate than Detective Annalisa Vega. After four books (and counting) in her popular and well-received debut series, Schaffhausen is now launching a second series that is sure to have readers flocking to the bookstore to grab a copy.
Twenty years ago, The Lovelorn Killer murdered seven women before vanishing without a trace. His trademark of ritually binding his victims using complex knots and then sending a love letter dedicated to them to the local newspaper confounded the authorities, but also generated fascination and fear in the general public.
Over the years since, groups of amateur detectives have risen in popularity and dedicated their time to solving these types of cold cases. Grace Harper is a member of one such group of true crime fanatics and she may have uncovered the vital clue that would break the Lovelorn Killer case wide open. Except, now she too is dead, another victim of this hedonistic predator.
Detective Annalisa Vega knows from personal experience the trauma losing someone to this serial killer imparts of those left behind. Her father worked the case before retiring from the police department. Even now, suffering the effects of dementia, he is unable to get beyond the feelings of failure he internalizes because he was not able to protect his family, his friends, his community. When Annalisa arrives at the crime scene where Grace Harper’s body is on display and Lovelorn information and memorabilia is scattered about, she knows this is her chance to catch this elusive killer and honor her father’s legacy. But to do so, Annalisa Vega must figure out what Grace and her group of amateur investigators were able to uncover – one of those clues is the vital piece that will lead to all the answers.
Joanna Schaffhausen crafts characters that are so multi-dimensional that readers will feel they are living, breathing individuals. Bonding almost immediately with Annalisa Vega, each reader will enjoy following her investigation even as it becomes obvious that every step closer puts her very life in danger. But this depth of character doesn’t just end there – every character on the page is complex and fascinating. The Vega family has many members and each of them bring a wealth of quirks to the table – many of which will surely be examined more closely in future books in the series. Partnered with her ex-husband for this investigation, yet pining for her childhood sweetheart (who returns to town just as the case heats up) , Annalisa Vega finds herself with multiple suitors and readers will be split on who she should maintain a relationship with.
The true crime group that Grace Harper was a member of certainly contains its share of quirky individuals, each of whom bring something unique to the table. Then there are the various family members and friends of previous victims whom Annalisa and her ex-husband must re-interview in hopes of finding something that was overlooked during the earlier investigation. Many of these people will elicit sympathy from the reader, making for an emotional reading experience.
The plot of Gone for Good is incredibly well-constructed with red herrings and unexpected twists around every dark corner. Spoilers would be too challenging to avoid, so suffice to say Schaffhausen leads readers to a satisfying conclusion before springing on them still more labyrinthine revelations that truly shock. The rich tapestry that is in place once Gone for Good is complete signals that readers are in for a truly rewarding and wholly-original journey across this particular series of novels. Count me among those who are eager for the next book immediately. Meanwhile, check out Joanna Schaffhausen’s other series while you await the return of Annalisa Vega.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.