“When a woman is found brutally murdered on Austin’s lakeside hike-and-bike trail, investigative reporter Bailey Rhoads turns up on the scene demanding access and answers. She tries to pry information out of the lead detective, Jacob Merritt. Bu this case is unlike any he’s ever seen, and nothing adds up. With the pressure building, Jacob knows the last thing he needs is romantic entanglement, but he can’t convince himself to stay away from Bailey.
Bailey has a hunch that the victim wasn’t who she claimed to be and believes this mugging-turned-murder could have been a targeted hit. When she digs deeper, the trail leads her to a high-tech fortress on the outskirts of Austin, where researchers are pushing the boundaries of a cutting-edge technology that could be deadly in the wrong hands. As a ruthless hit man’s mission becomes clear, Bailey and Jacob join together in a desperate search to locate the next target before the clock ticks down in this lethal game of hide-and-seek.”
-Synopsis from back cover
Texas Murder Files #1
Earlier this year when I saw that Laura Griffin had a new book coming out, the first in a new series no less, I was so excited! At the time, August seemed so far away. Well, we made it (ha!) and I was so looking forward to getting my hands on this book that I decided to preorder it. Remember, I don’t preorder books very much, so this was a big deal for me!
*minor spoilers below*
Let me tell you, it did not disappoint! It had everything I’ve come to know and love about Laura Griffin’s books and writing style. It was very fast-paced and suspenseful, with strong characters and a very detailed plot. You cannot help but get sucked into the story.
Hidden is set in Austin and introduces us to Bailey Rhoads and Jacob Merritt. Right off the bat we learn so much background about Bailey, her life and her family, that I couldn’t help but be invested in her (and her sister, Hannah 🙂 ). On the other hand, I didn’t feel like I got as much background on Jacob as I wanted. This book definitely felt like Bailey’s story first and foremost.
Random crime…or not?
The story starts with Bailey getting word of a crime at a nearby park. She takes it upon herself to drive out to the park and start interviewing, or at least attempting to interview, the police detectives lingering nearby. I loved Bailey’s how determined she is to not only get the story but to stick with it even when it started to go cold. The case could have been a random mugging gone wrong, but the evidence Bailey uncovers doesn’t add up, and in fact leads to an even bigger story than she could have predicted.
One of the reasons Bailey is so intent on investigating this story is because she wants to prove her worthiness as a reporter for the Herald. There have been many layoffs at work as the newspaper industry has struggled in recent years, and she has to prove relevant and useful in order to keep from getting fired. She seeks Jacob out to give her any inside details he can about the case in order to fuel her story. But the problem is, Jacob doesn’t have many details to give; not only that, but he is conflicted about even associating with Bailey because although he likes her, she is a journalist first and foremost. The more they are seen together, the more it will seem like he’s feeding her information to get a good story.
Following the trail
Despite Jacob distancing her, Bailey is able to piece together not only what happened to the victim but also her identity, around the same time as Jacob and his partner, Kendra. When the FBI steps in to take over the case, Jacob does his best to deter Bailey from investigating any further, but she has already dug pretty deep and doesn’t want to give up, and neither does Jacob. Not only do they both want to solve the crime, but when they realize there is another victim whose identity has been compromised, the clock starts ticking on how quickly they can locate her before the killer does.
The victim turns out to be a woman who was in the witness protection program. Despite doing everything possible to shed her true identity and start a new life, she was somehow tracked down by a hit man. How was this possible?
Tracking with technology
As it turns out, you can never really go under the radar. New developments in facial recognition technology are making it even easier not only to track individuals but to allow for the ability to store those files in databases. The more Bailey learns about this new technology the more she begins to question: Who is in control of that information, and how easily can it be hacked?
This brings up issues of privacy not just for everyday individuals but especially for those in the witness protection program. The appearance of a lack of a safeguard to this digital information makes it appear as though the FBI is not doing their job as effectively as they should be, which is why Bailey and Jacob are so insistent about taking the investigation into their own hands. They end up traveling outside of Austin in the hopes of tracking down the next victim and helping her to safety, none of which goes according to plan.
Hidden was a great first book to this new series. As always I was impressed with the amount of detail put into the plot. Laura Griffin seriously does her research to make these books even more realistic. While the Tracers series deals a lot with forensic evidence, it looks like the Hidden series will deal more with technology.
If you are interested, Laura Griffin wrote about facial recognition technology and the concept of being off the grid for Crime Reads and Criminal Element respectively. Those articles can be found here and here. I found them to be a great supplement to the book!
This was such a great book and I’m happy to know that the second book Flight will be out early next year!
Goodreads rating: Five stars