Cover Image: Runner


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Member Reviews

I have found a new mystery author. I loved this book from beginning to end.  It was a fast paced thriller that kept me guessing throughout the entire story.  Although I haven't read the other books in the series, I didn't feel like anything was missing from this story (and yes, I plan to read the other books in the series as well as the author's backlog. )  A great job was done with this story

I received a copy of the book via netgalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
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Chicagoan Tracy Clark writes what she knows. Part of a rich tradition, she stands on the shoulders of Black writers who led the way, even when they were the antithesis of mainstream. In a recent essay, she rounds up Black detective novels “from then until now.”

These black writers, these pioneers, did the heavy lifting. Looking at their contributions figuratively, they could be said to have planned the house, mixed the concrete, and laid the foundation. Those who came after them built the walls and set the windows, moved in the furniture. My contemporaries and I have it easy in comparison. All we have to do is stand guard over the house, keep it safe and sound for those who come after us.

Runner is the fourth Chicago Mystery book. Tracking down a runaway teenage girl, Cass Raine’s latest case, gets personal for Chicago’s Southside-based “Black homicide cop-turned P.I.” It’s no time for a young girl to be on the streets: it’s “Chicago. Brutal. Winter’s threat—keep it moving, sucka, or die where you stand.” 

Ramona Titus is a fifteen-year-old who has been in foster care for five years because her mother, Leesa Evans, is an addict and unable to be a good parent. Ramona seemingly has a good relationship with Deloris Poole, her foster mother, so why take off? Leesa is working the program and has been clean for ninety-seven days. She wants to rebuild her relationship with her daughter but Ramona is missing. Leesa asks Cass to find Ramona, proffering a nest-egg of a couple hundred dollars.  Cass is cognizant of her client’s shaky finances and quickly tries to calculate how many days she “could afford to work for Evans for free,” but Leesa has pride. 

I gathered up the bills, folded them, and handed them back. “Hold on to this for the time being, how’s that?”


Evan’s eyes fired. She put the money back on the table. “I don’t imagine you work for free, do you? I sure as hell don’t. If this isn’t enough, then you tell me how much more, and I’ll figure it out. I’m no charity case.”

Ramona’s mother and Cass come to a “silent understanding.” Leesa Evans has picked the right detective: “If Cass takes on your case, she’ll stick with it no matter how many noses she puts out of joint.” 

Cass visits Deloris Poole, who is “desperate” to find Ramona and bring her back to her frilly, pink-decorated bedroom: “the small pink-and-white room upstairs looked as though there ought to have been a fairy princess in it, too.” Cass also interviews Ronald Shaw, Ramona’s case manager, a conversation that doesn’t go well. He calls Ramona “disrespectful” for running away from someone as wonderful and caring as Deloris Poole. Cass calls him on it, stating baldly, “You’re high on Deloris Poole.” Sensing she won’t get anything more out of Ramona’s case-worker, Cass says goodbye and starts mentally riffing through her contacts to see who might fill her in on Ronald.

Shaw rose, too. Was that relief I saw on his face? “Ramona was a good kid. But if I were you, I’d leave it to the police.”


I loved it when men felt compelled to tell women what to do in that patronizing tone they might give a meddling child, and by loved, I meant the opposite. In fact, it guaranteed I’d do more of the thing they didn’t want me to do, but they didn’t know that until much later.

Ramona wasn’t the only one to leave Deloris’s care: Cass asks Ronald why he moved Tonya Pierce out a “few days before Ramona ran away.” But Deloris is so sweet, the room for her foster-daughters is so perfect. Something feels hinky about the relationship between the case worker and the house mother and their charges: Cass cynically considers, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” 

Cass shifts seamlessly between being a private investigator and a former policewoman. She taps her former colleagues for information, and they do the same right back. Yet some officials seem to not want her to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing teen. Why? Cass figures out Ramona has cottoned on to some nefarious business and she’s on the run because she’s afraid what will happen to her if she’s caught. Maybe Cass needs to worry too, but that’s never stopped her before. 

The bits of business in Runner are enjoyable while also furthering the plot. Take Cass’s visit to Deek’s diner where Muna, her favorite waitress, is gone. Aggie is the waitress on duty and her conversation with Cass encapsulates why readers can’t get enough of P.I. Raines. 

Aggie’s sleepy eyes stared back at me. “Taking the day off, but if you’re worried, I can’t cover a diner station, put your mind to rest. This isn’t my first rodeo. Been slinging hash for now on twenty years.” Her dull eyes held mine. “You’re that detective Muna told me about. Extra whipped cream on your chocolate shakes. No butter on your pancakes. You always sit in this booth, with your back to the wall.”


I said nothing, just stared at her, not liking any of it.


“Gangsters do that, too,” Aggie said.


I squinted at her.


Aggie said, “They face the door, so they can see who comes gunning for them. You don’t like change, Muna said.” The pencil twirled in Aggie’s bony fingers. “Says it throws you off. I know people like that. It’s not healthy. You eating or just sitting? Muna also said sometimes you just come and sit. If this is one of those sit times, I’ll leave you to it. If it isn’t . . .” She poised the pencil over her order pad. 

I said, “I handle change just fine.”

But when Aggie challenges her to sit at a different table “instead of holing yourself up back here like a hermit crab under a rock,” Cass takes off. Cass is stuck in her ways but her tenacity gets the job done. Runner is a page-turner with surprising twists and turns: the villains are malevolent and not easy to discern. Another great Cass Raines story from Tracy Clark.
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Living in. Chicago, I would love to have a coffee with my new PI crush Cass Raines and if I was Dying in Chicago I would love to have Cass Raines identify my killer.  Expecting and hoping neither to occur I settled into the fourth installment of what is a brilliant series.  Clark knows Chicago, it’s politics, its racism, its sexism and its streets.  Straightforward, unabashed writing with characters you can see and feel  make for a deeply satisfying novel.  It also makes even the couch potato reader rise up in anger. Sincerely recommend you read this series in order.
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This was a classic crime fiction novel. As someone who’s born and bred on the South Side of Chicago I LOVED this one. Knowing the streets and neighborhoods that Cass made this that much better. But if you’re not from Chicago I HIGHLY recommend. 
Not only is Cass a strong female lead, but she is a strong BLACK female lead! I cannot tell you the last time I read a police procedural where a Black female was the sole main character of the book. Cass was strong, smart (street and book), funny and way ahead of all the other players in this book. She knew how to use her strengths and played them to her advantage. 
In this book PI Cassandra Raines is asked to look for a missing girl - 15 year old Ramona. A black girl in the system, her recovering mother is worried the CPD is not doing everything they can to help find her daughter. With very little to go on Cass dives into Ramona’s life before she went missing. Cass comes across a loving foster mom, a overworked social worker and a retired CPD missing persons officer who all want to help out. But suddenly everyone becomes suspicious and Cass doesn’t know who to trust. She soon finds hers,Ed falling into a conspiracy bigger than she even thought as she picks up the breadcrumbs Ramona left behind. 
I was hooked from the start. I had my suspicions along with Cass but found I could not not turn the page fast enough to find out how it all went down. 
This is the fourth book in the series but I did not find the need to read the other three ahead of time aside from having more background info on Cass and her life growing up. I will absolutely be purchasing the rest in this series as well as any other books Clark has written.
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I discovered Tracy Clark's Cass Raines series as 2020 gave way to 2021 and was immediately hooked on the smart, savvy, competent as hell, former Chicago police officer turned private eye. I caught the series early, which means after plowing through the first three books I had to wait for book four, Runner, like a regular chump.  Well, it's finally here and it was a riveting read.

It's shortly after Thanksgiving and the Chicago weather has turned bitter cold. Winter is here and Cass is paying the price for most of this book. You can tell Clark knows Chicago. She nails the weather.  Anyway, Cass is seeking shelter in that most Chicago of places - a White Castle. Certainly the sliders are a draw but she's also there to meet a perspective client.  Leesa Evans is a recovering addict looking for her missing daughter, Ramona.  Ramona is 15-years-old and in the foster care system. By all accounts she was in a good situation, living with a former actress, Deloris Poole, who was giving the girl structure, and slowly getting her to open up.  And then one day, poof! Ramona runs away. No word, no warning, in the dead of winter.  The cops are on the case, but Leesa doesn't trust the cops. She wants someone working for her - which is where Cass comes in.  Cass hears the words "15-year-old girl" and knows she'll be taking on Leesa as a client.

What follows is Cass covering a lot of ground and backtracking through territory that the police have already covered (to start at any rate). But it's definitely odd. For one thing the lead detective on the case is downright cooperative and is fine with a PI sniffing around. Given the previous three books in this series, Cass finds that odd (she's used to rubbing Chicago's finest in all the wrong ways, never mind she used to be one of them).  Ramona has zero friends and didn't seem to confide in a single person, anywhere and she's not part of the city's social services system. Ramona is in foster care through a private organization. Cass talks to the obvious players, hits a lot of dead ends, but eventually hits pay dirt when she uncovers a lead through Ramona's part-time job.  Unfortunately that lead brings up more questions than answers.

Clark rounds out her story by populating it with the many "found family" secondary characters that have been introduced over the course of the series.  The police detective she's been dating wants her to finally meet his teenage daughter (it goes about as well as you'd expect), the childhood friends, a nun who helps her with the case by introducing her to some street kids, the ex-con turned short order cook who is hiding something (plot bunny for Book #5!) and the local diner where Cass regularly eats has a new waitress who has her out-of-sorts (Cass doesn't do well with change).  

The mystery is engaging and solid and Cass continues to be a dynamite character, smart and savvy. Series, at a certain point, can be tricky to write - needing to engage both newcomers and fans alike, but this book stands alone very well, and won't lose newcomers despite being book #4. Clark also avoids info-dumping that would cause an already-fan's eyes to glaze over.

Clark has won an award named after Sue Grafton, and for readers who loved the "feel" of the Kinsey Millhone series, you need to drop your life and try this series.  The recurring cast of secondary characters, the strong neighborhood feel of the setting, the competent as hell female PI - this series hits all those beats.  Clark is definitely my favorite author discovery in recent memory and I am ready for another book tomorrow.  Instead, like a chump, I patiently wait.

Final Grade = B+
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(I have not read the previous books in the series.  I feel you can read this as a standalone)
The main character is Cass Raines.  She use to be a cop and is now a PI.  She is passionate about solving any case sent her way.  And, she’s not above bypassing the police to get justice for her clients.  
The setting is Chicago in the wintertime.  The author writes about  the frigid, dreary Chicago weather in a way that you can feel the freezing cold.
The story covers homelessness, foster homes, runaways, addiction and much more.
I loved the nuns…they brought humor to the story.
There a a few situations going on within the story.  You definitely will not get bored reading Runner.
Anyone that enjoys a well written detective series will definitely enjoy the Cass Raines series.  I will be reading the previous books in the series so I can get the backstory about Cass.
I really liked Tracy Clark’s writing style.
Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read this book for my honest opinion.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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The fourth book in the series, I liked Runner even more than the first book!
I originally checked out the series because it features a Black, female, detective-turned-PI and is written by a Black woman. 
Cass Raines is fully-formed, hard-boiled and still fun. 
As a foster parent, this case hit close to home - a foster youth (teen) runs away from a seemingly-perfect foster home and Cass is hired by her birth mom when it seems no one cares.  I appreciated the realistic details of the system and the way it respected both the teen and her birth mom. 

I’ll be reading the next books in the series!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free review copy
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Thank you NetGalley, Publisher and Author for this ebook copy! 

I loved this book like alot! Everything about it was great! 
The writing, characters were very well.develop, they story was just captivating and held my attention throughout the entire book! 
This is an enjoyable to read about in exquisite detail. The charcters are enjoyable and i appreciated the authors attention to details throughout the story. 

Overall I highly recommend the book!
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While you could actually read Tracy Clark’s latest Chicago mystery, Runner, without having read the previous three books, you can meet her PI, Cass Raines, and Cass’ found family if you start with the first book, Broken Places. However, Runner is the most intimate of the books, the one that allows readers to know Cass the best because of comments from those people who are closest to her. And, anyone who reads this book will witness Cass’ uncertainty when someone points out her determination. That’s not exactly what they call it.

Cass Raines is a Black PI in Chicago. When it doesn’t appear that the police are listening, Leesa Evans turns to Cass. Leesa’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Ramona, is missing. She’s been in the system for five years. Leesa isn’t proud of it because she was caught up in the drug life, and lost custody of Ramona. Ramona has been living in a foster home run by Delores Poole, but she ran away nine days earlier. When Cass asks questions, a cop, Detective Hogan insists he’s looking for Ramona. He was in the system, too, and he ran away himself. He even assures her a retired cop, Frank Martini, is looking for her.

But, it’s winter in Chicago, and something just doesn’t seem right to Cass. Why would a teen run from a foster home that seems good? Ronald Short, Ramona’s case manager, insists Poole is a good foster mother. But, Raines isn’t happy that he spoke of Ramona and another girl in the past tense. Cass doesn’t know if there’s anything she can do that the cops haven’t done. But, they’re not as determined as she is.

Cass understands what it feels like to be abandoned. Her father left her with her grandparents the day of her mother’s funeral. She’s built a family for herself including a nun and an ex-con she’s known since childhood. There’s the custodian of her building, and a safe refuge at a diner where she’s comfortable with the waitress. Although the story of a teen runaway can be grim, there are humorous moments, such as Cass’ discomfort when her waitress is not at the diner. She knows she’s a creature of habit.

Cass Raines knows she has issues. She questions why she does things like this to herself, worrying about a pickpocket klepto, a missing ex-con, a runaway teenager. Cass cares. Do the cops really care about another runaway Black teenager whose mother was an addict? Two nuns, including her friend, Barb, seem to understand her, but it bothers Cass to hear Sister Marian tell her she’s “A control freak of the highest order.” It’s even worse when Sister Marian is mad at her. “You’re an obsinate woman. Bullheaded, singularly unwavering in your tenacity…and foolhardiness.” Her friend, Sister Barb, agrees. “You are stupidly tenacious.”

If Cass Raines wasn’t so tenacious and foolhardy, she wouldn’t chase down a gang of street kids led by a teen named Scoot. She wouldn’t stand her ground when facing the kids who have weapons and a dog. And, she wouldn’t care so much about feeding every one of those street kids, wouldn’t care enough to not bring a weapon when meeting with them.

Runner is a well-written, intriguing mystery. Where is Ramona? Why did she run, and who did she run from? Cass wants to find her, and keep her safe. But, there’s a powerful message here, told with anger and some humor. Who is going to keep all those street kids safe? Why are any of them out there, victims to all kinds of predators? It takes someone with Cass Raines’ background, her tenacity, to fight for homeless and forgotten teens. Runner is a story to be taken to heart and remembered.
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Runner is the fourth book in this series, and as someone new to it I was able to jump in with no trouble at all. Clark has a knack for revealing details at just the right time, whether they're the main character's back story, current connections, or details in the mystery she's investigating. 
Cass Raines is investigating the disappearance of Ramona Titus, a 15 year old runaway, in the freezing Chicago winter. Ramona's bio mom wants to know where she is; she doesn't have custody so she fled a foster care situation that seems safe. 
A missing child is heartbreaking, and the realities of what could happen aren't spared here. What is interesting is the cop assigned seems actually interested in finding her (but not without their own prejudices that get in the way) and a retired cop, Martini, has also involved themselves, so Cass isn't the only one looking. But their reasons for looking, as Cass discovers, are more than just finding Ramona. And Ramona may not be the only one missing connected to why she's gone. Clark keeps the pace moving and the readers on their toes as they hope for the best with Cass and prepare for the worst. An engaging mystery that readers won't be able to put down.  

CW: missing teenagers, murder, suicide, mention of cancer.
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This is the fourth book in the series of mystery novels starring Cass Raines, a former police officer and currently a Private Investigator.  In this book, Cass is tasked with tracking down a teenager that ran away from her foster home during the cold Chicago winter.

I hadn't read the first three books in this series, but fortunately you don't necessarily need the information from the other books to enjoy this one.  The author still adds in details about Cass and her history, so that you have some information about her background.  As Cass digs deeper to try and track down the missing girl and figure out why she left, she uncovers more sinister details that suggest a large plot involving multiple people.

This mystery novel was decent, although not as surprising or twisty as many other suspense/mysteries that I've read.  Even though I was able to predict a few things, the main character was endearing enough to keep me reading.  I'm willing to bet that this book is even more enjoyable if you have read the first three, so I plan to go back and check those out also.
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Another fantastic release in the Cass Raines series! I seriously hope it never ends. I absolutely love how gritty and yet vulnerable Cass is and how hard she fights for the people who need her- not necessarily the people who hire her. On its face, this book is about Cass trying to find a runaway teen, but her spidey senses tell her that there's much more to this story. What unfolds is such a full and fast-paced telling of crooked cops and even crookeder (it's a word!) investigators. Enjoyed IMMENSELY. 
A note that this is a series you have to enjoy from the beginning to track the development of this character and fold her past into the present so if you haven't read this from the beginning, go back and do that now. You won't regret it.
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Cassandra Raines is a former police officer with the Chicago Police Department, who after a horrific incident resigned from the force and became a Private Investigator. Her next case comes from Leesa Evans, searching for her missing 15-year-old daughter, Ramona Titus, who ran away from her foster home in the dead of winter. RUNNER by Tracy Clark puts PI Raines to the task yet again to track down the missing teenager – however, as Cass gets closer to finding Ramona, she discovers that the case is more complicated than just one missing teenager. 

RUNNER is the fourth installment in the Cass Raines/Chicago Mystery series by Tracy Clark. Readers who read the first three books already know and likely love Cass. She grew up in the city and puts her community connections to good use – combined with her tenacious drive and quick wit, she’s damn good at her job. She’s a badass and makes very quick decisions – that while extremely unsafe at times, often pay off in the long run. Part of me wishes I could be more like Cass, but another part of me is fine with just reading about her cases. 

Upon investigating Ramona’s whereabouts, Cass talks to several key players; there’s Deloris Poole, Ramona’s foster mother, who has a glowing track record when it comes to fostering kids. Poole seems to genuinely be concerned about Ramona’s safety and well-being. Frank Martini, a retired detective who is assisting with the case at the request of Detective Hogan of the CPD, seems alright to Cass upon first meeting him, and she needs his expertise as someone who specialized in missing persons cases. Ronald Shaw, Ramona’s case worker, is the only contact who seems the most nervous during his visit with Cass. As Cass finds more information regarding Ramona’s life and personality, she begins to uncover something more sinister than a simple runaway teenager – and wondering why Poole, Martini, and Shaw are all directly involved. 

Reading RUNNER is the first time I’m meeting Cass Raines – however, Clark expertly tells the story in which I was able to follow along without reading the first three books. She also sprinkles any details and characters from Cass’s background into the storyline, so that readers don’t miss a beat. Even so, I was hooked to the story and rooting for Cass the entire way through. 

Maybe I’m a sucker for crime/mystery novels and have a sweet spot for my home city, but for me this book was a page-turner. Clark lets Cass take the lead, guiding readers through the investigation and allowing them to solve the case with her. The further I got into the story, the more invested I became into finding Ramona and learning why she ran away during a Chicago winter. When readers do find out, the reason leads to even more questions. 

Clark paces the story very well, which picks up towards the end for a showdown that you’ll have to finish in one sitting – or else you won’t be able to stop thinking about it until you do. I also enjoyed that we still got parts of Cass’s personal life and the larger story arc that spans over the entire series thus far. Not only does this illustrate Cass’s life beyond RUNNER, but also gets first-timers like me adding the first three books to their to-read list. In fact, as of posting this review, I’ve already listened to the first book, Broken Places, on audiobook. And I can’t wait to move on to the next.
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This is an excellent continuation of the Cass Raines series. Her talents and passion for the work she does really get to shine, and her instincts prove essential to solving the case that she is working. The story in this one has layers that consistently get more sinister, and the final scenes will definitely get adrenaline pumping. This one doesn't do a ton to advance the plots around Cass's personal life, but it does set up the series really well for the next book.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this publication! I really enjoyed this book! Great work!
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Fans of Tracy Clark's Chicago Mysteries will be thrilled by her newest installment. Filled with icy descriptions of Chicago winter juxtaposed with the tentative life of foster kids, especially Black and Brown kids in tenuous circumstances, Clark writes about found family and what home means, even if it is fleeting. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the e-preview!
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Tracy Clark
June 29, 2021

Clark gives us number 4 in the Chicago Mystery/Cass Raines series. Cassidy Raines is an ex-cop.  She was so tired of seeing the people hurt, the children left by their parents on the street or abandoned apartments.  She’s become a Private Investigator.  She handles all sorts of cases but prefers to search for those who are missing.  Parents or family paying to have her help find their loved ones.  Leesa Evans is a mother who loved her daughter, Ramona.  Trying to keep her safe while also leaving the drug addiction behind.  Ramona was placed in foster care with a family she loved. They cared for her.  The day came, as it does often in foster care, that a counselor from Child Support Services turned up at the door.  The time had come to transfer Ramona to a new home.  There are never reasons why the child is moved, it just happens.  She was placed with Delores Poole, a woman who likes to say wonderful things about her home and the girls that live there.  Unfortunately Delores is not as honest as she appears.  In this case Ramona disappeared after a short while at the Poole household.  Although the police were contacted, Evans never heard about the progress, if any that they were making on the case.  Leesa contacted Cassidy Raines for help in locating her 15 year old daughter.  
Runner takes place in winter in Chicago.  Our protagonist, Raines, finds the weather nasty and life difficult.  Her tone is honest yet humorous.  Living in the midwest will do that to you.  I appreciate Clark’s writing style.  Cass Raines lives where the people live - apartments that have to be buzzed into and restaurants are underneath or next to many.  The mystery is well written and easy to read. I enjoyed this one and must look into more of Tracy Clark’s novels.  
Runner will be published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on June 29, 2021.  I appreciate their allowing me to read and review Clark’s newest book.  The Chicago Mystery series is a good one to follow.  Not into a series?  Runner is a good read as a single.  Do pick up this one and by all means - Enjoy!
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This is the fourth book in this PI mystery series. But, it’s not necessary to read the others before diving into this one. A briskly paced procedural with a good character in the PI, Cass Raines.
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I ended up liking this book quite a bit,  The main character, a PI looking for a missing girl, is very likeable, stubborn, set in her ways, funny, caring, and at times a big risk taker.   The main story explores issues of race, poverty, homeless kids, addiction and even some very original nuns.  Her descriptions were very real, we felt with her the cold of chicago winters and the places she saw.
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Cass former police officer turned private eye is asked by the Mother of a teenager who has run away from her foster home to try and find her.  The more Cass gets into the case the more she begins to wonder if it is a simple case of a runaway or is there something more going on.  There appear to be more missing girls that are all connected to the same agency.  Cass doesn’t know who she can trust.   This book is a mystery with a slow build to the conclusion.  I had guessed most of it but still enjoyed the book.  There are some good characters, clever dialogue and occasional humor.  Thank you to net galley for an advanced readers copy.
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