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Red Flags

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Red Flags by Lisa Black
Locard Institute #1

Great introduction to a new forensic research, study, and investigation series that will provide cases for private investigators with mad skills to solve a variety of cases with and perhaps without government, state, and local law enforcement agencies. 

What I liked: 
* Dr. Ellie Carr: DC FBI crime scene analyst, divorced, dedicated, difficult backstory that I hope to hear more about, on a case that many might recuse themselves from, would like to know more about her.
* Dr. Rachael Davies: assistant director of Locard Institute, single parent to deceased sister’s toddler, counts on her mother for child care, has a proposition for Ellie at the end of the book
* Ellie’s extended family (most of them): there for Ellie when she found herself an orphan at eleven
* Taylor: Ellie’s first cousin once removed, a bystander in the disappearance of her younger brother, has much to contend with
* The look into the gaming industry and its impact on children, the parental controls that may or may not be sufficient, and the “what-ifs” that were introduced
* The plot, writing, and pacing 
* That it made me think and care about the outcome
* The unexpected twist toward the end of the story
* That though it took me awhile to get into the story…I could not put it down once engaged
* That there are more books to look forward to

What I didn’t like: 
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* The mental anguish that some of the characters must have experienced
* The cold calculating nature of a few of the characters

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more in this series? Yes

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review.

4-5 Stars
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The first book in a new series must introduce the readers to a complete cast of characters and build a community where they live and work while telling a strong enough story that the reader will want to come back for a second book.  This is a skill that can take many tries before an author is successful.  I don't know hpw many tries Lisa Black has had, but she hit a home run with this one.  Welcome to the Locard Institute book #1.  We meet the principal characters as they join together to solve multiple kidnapping of children whose parents have influence on gaming regulations.  The Institute specializes in forensic investigation and I was fascinated how Ms Black examined and explained the procedures used to solve differing crimes.  The story is definitely compelling enough to insure I follow Ms Black and read the next installment in the Locard Institute series.
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3.5 stars

Red Flags by Lisa Black  is the first in the Locard Institute thriller series.

First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Kensington Books and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Series Information:
Dr. Rachel Davies (a former forensic pathologist) is the assistant director of The Locard Institute which conducts research in forensic topics, from ballistics to DNA analysis, and trains scientists and technicians and law enforcement personnel from around the country.  They have state-of-the-art technology available, and are often in demand.  Dr. Ellie Carr is a forensic scientist for the FBI in DC.


My Synopsis:   (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions)
When baby Mason is kidnapped, Ellie is right there dusting for prints, and she is stunned to learn that his mother is actually her cousin Becca, who she hasn't really seen in years. Becca is a policy advisor to the senate, and her husband, Hunter, is a lobbyist.  They are well-to-do, and often have the ears of the government.  Hunter decides the FBI aren't enough, and he hires The Locard Insititute to work with the FBI to find his child.  Instead of saying it's a conflict of interest, the FBI determine that Ellie should work with Locard.  She isn't thrilled, and is concerned that if things go badly, she'll be made the scapegoat.

However,  Ellie will do anything she can to help find her cousin's child.  Determining the reason for the missing boy is problematic.  It seems that whoever took Mason must have been able to come and go easily, so it may have been an inside job.  But why?  Is it for ransom, or does it have something to do with the work that Becca and Hunter are involved with right now.  Gaming is a billion dollar enterprise, and some are trying to stop their client  from allowing in-game chats and selling classified information on the gamers.  Hunter would lose a lot of money if they lost this case.


My Opinions:
Okay, I'm not a fan of political thrillers, and a lot of this was based on lobbyists and senate procedures, which I could have done without.  It was overly-detailed.  Yes, I may have skimmed.  However, perhaps I should have realized it may be political when I read that it takes place in DC.  Hopefully, the next book will deal with less politics.

As well, the topic of on-line child predators is a little scary, but quite often I felt like I was being preached to.  Again, everything was explained non-stop -- too many details, and repetitive.

I did, however, like both Ellie and Rachel, so that helps me to see that the series could be good.  I really enjoyed reading about what they were doing to solve the crime.  So the forensics was interesting, the characters great, the topic good, but the overall book a little too detailed/boring.

Anyway, I will definitely read a second book in this series, and see how it goes.
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When FBI Evidence Response Team analyst Dr Ellie Carr is called in to help investigate a kidnapping case, the last thing she expects is for the missing child to belong to her own estranged cousin Becca Carlisle. The two girls had once been very close as pre-teens growing up together in West Virginia, but had fallen out of contact after Ellie moved away. Ellie is surprised to find that Becca is now a soignee DC lobbyist, a far cry from the temperamental kid she’d once known. For all that Becca has changed, though, Ellie can still see shades of the emotional child in the mother now grieving over the disappearance of Mason, her infant son.

While Ellie’s strong sense of family ensures that she wants to be there for Becca, she also knows that this same personal connection is more than ample reason for her to recuse herself from the case. With the rest of the ERT preoccupied with other cases in the DC vicinity however, she’s the only technician they have available. Besides, the FBI agents in charge want her to stay. She’s well aware that this is a poisoned chalice, as she confides in her ex-husband and soon-to-be boss, Adam, who doesn’t quite see it the way she does:

QUOTE
“Huh,” Adam said. “That’s kinda cool.”

“Not really. I would have been okay to stay here as a family member only, but by leaving me in my official capacity, they’re setting me up as either spy or scapegoat. Becca and [her husband] Hunter are automatically suspects, so I can be their inside man. They solve it, then it’s ‘Yay, FBI!’ If they don’t, they can let everyone assume it’s because I helped Becca cover it up, or simply didn’t give it my all. If [Agent] Tyler and his partner–guy named Alvarez–want to, they can ruin my reputation just to get their own supervisors off their backs.”
END QUOTE

Regardless of why she’s being allowed to stay on, she’s determined to do the best job she can while also providing emotional support for her cousin. She’s thus taken aback when Becca’s husband decides to call in a private company to “assist” her efforts. 

The Locard Institute, named after the French founding father of forensic science, has facilities that aren't quite as backlogged as the FBI’s and other law enforcement labs too often are, so can accelerate research for their usually wealthy clients. While Ellie does her best to be cordial, she can’t help but feel somewhat territorial when she finally does meet Dr Rachael Davies, the pathologist the Institute sends to help the Carlisles look into Mason’s kidnapping. Rachael does her best to mitigate the tension, even inviting Ellie for a tour of the Institute’s state-of-the-art facilities:

QUOTE
She pointed out a small sign off the path to the left that read: SITE 1. “We have two ‘body farm’ type digs, to give our students practice with buried bodies.”

“Of course you do,” Eliie said, and chuckled to herself for some reason.

“Depending on the class and how long it runs, they might come out twice a day to observe the changes due to decomposition, or they might have to dig one up to get some experience in excavation and documenting an excavation.”

“Very nice,” Ellie said. “Okay, that sounds weird to say.”

“But true.”
END QUOTE

The two women slowly bond not only in their shared, and admittedly unusual, professional interests but also in their determination to find Mason and bring him safely home. But when other children are abducted, all of them the offspring of Hunter’s co-workers, it quickly becomes a race against time to discover who’s behind all this and to stop them before any innocent children are hurt or worse.

While Red Flags is a forensic thriller, it’s also a very clever fair play mystery, with a deeply satisfying ending. I really enjoyed the way Lisa Black layers the interconnecting mysteries here, even as she sensitively explores Ellie and Rachael’s complicated family lives and how those affect their reactions to Mason’s kidnapping. I especially loved how Ellie and Rachael’s friendship develops, from a realistic and understandable professional standoffishness to the warmth they begin to show as they learn not only to work together but to rely on one another. This series debut also subtly hinted at future romances for each woman, balancing their personal stories perfectly with the suspenseful action. I’m so looking forward to enjoying more of Ellie and Rachael’s adventures together, and can’t wait to read what Ms Black writes next.
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Red Flags by Lisa Black is a very highly recommended forensic thriller and the first book in a new series.

Dr. Ellie Carr, a D.C. crime scene analyst and part of the FBI’s evidence response team, is called to investigate the case of a 4 month old missing baby, Mason Carlisle. Once she arrives at the scene, a mansion on the banks of the Potomac, she is shocked to discover that the child’s mother, Rebecca, is her own cousin that she hasn't seen in fifteen years. Rebecca, is a policy adviser to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation while her husband Hunter owns a wealthy lobbying firm.

There is no clear trace what happened to Mason and Hunter hires Dr. Rachael Davies, a Washington DC forensic scientist and assistant dean at the prestigious Locard Forensic Institute to assist in the investigation. Now Ellie and Rachel are working together. The case becomes much more involved and complicated and involves blackmailing a lobbying effort on gaming industry regulations.

Red Flags is a great introduction to a new series. The writing is excellent and the tension rises as various scenarios are looked at and suspects are considered. The case is complicated and information and clues are uncovered as well as clever insights. The investigation is interesting to follow and there are several twists to surprise you or point you in a different direction concerning the case. There are fascinating details for crime scene fans to follow.

Both Ellie and Rachel are equally interesting characters and the investigations are compelling and detailed. The narrative moves quickly and developments are rapid in the plot and the investigations. There are plenty of forensic details and discoveries in the cases. The whole case suddenly involves a multilayered investigation and technical details. The two women work well together and this portends well for the new series. I'm looking forward to the next novel in the series.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Kensington via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Edelweiss, Google Books, and Amazon.
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This is the first book from Lisa Black that I have read and thankfully it is the start of a new series by this author.

This is an interesting start to a new series and the author focusing a little too much on the online safety and protecting children. The author loves her forensic science and readers who love the CSI side of mysteries will love all the accepts the author puts into her story.

Even if readers are hit over the head with online safety the story is a fast-paced thriller that will have readers invested with finding the missing child a in hopes of a happy.

With all the positive and a little negative this is a good beginning to a new series.

Thank you to Netgalley Lisa Black Red Flags.
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A solid start to a new series.  The MC, Ellie, is a  crime scene analyst; a POV that is a nice change.  A suspenseful and complex story about a kidnapping, online gaming and politics kept me turning pages. I found Ellie to be a well developed and interesting MC and look foward to the next book in this series. 
Thank you Kensington Books and Netgalley for this ARC.
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The first four chapters of this book did not mesh well with a vacation brain. Who was that again? Which is the husband? The business owner? The best friend? The mom?  Either I needed to slow down or start taking notes.

My brain had grasped onto two characters when the kidnapping was relayed to Ellie, but so glad that I was wrong since that would have been too easy. Instead, I was gut-punched with each revelation and by the last couple of chapters, I realized that Lisa Black left tidbits along the way that only made sense when all was revealed.

To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. The pacing is phenomenal, the lessons along the way regarding insidious online gaming are eye-opening, and the interaction between Rachael and Ellie has me looking forward to the next book in this series.
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Red Flags is a solid series launch with all the forensic details CSI fans have come to love. A big part of the plot hinges on child safety on the internet, which everyone would agree is extremely important. But no matter how many restrictions are placed on computer games aimed at children, no matter how many things parents try to drill into their children's heads, kids will be kids-- seemingly compelled to do stupid stuff all the while insisting that they'd never be dumb enough to do it. Yes, there is more than one child at risk in this book, and one of the best things about Red Flags is watching those children working out how to save themselves. (Speaking of red flags, if one is waving madly above your head at the thought of child endangerment, I'd like to put your mind at rest without saying any more that might possibly give away the plot.)

If you're a reader who likes plot over characterization, Red Flags should be your cup of tea. There's plenty of misdirection, twists, turns, deceit... you name it.  In fact, there's so much going on that a bit of trimming might have helped tighten up a lagging denouement. When all is said and done, Red Flags is a competent thriller with a strong story. However, none of the characters made me want to read more.
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Ellie has a family matter to attend. Her cousin’s baby is missing and Ellie needs to assist in the investigation.
As the clues pile up, Ellie is beginning to have misgivings.
It’s a fast paced read with lots of puzzles to ponder and unravel. 
Nobody knows a person better than family or do they?
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Amazingly detailed book!  Loved Ellie and Rachel and can't wait to read more of their adventures (please)!

Loved all the aspects this book covered - kidnapping, murder, gaming and children's involvement in it, forensics, FBI, Washington politics and lobbying- what else could you want!  Loved the detail, true life discussion and family drama!  

Great book - hoping it will be the first of a new series!!
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Thank you to the author, Kensington Books and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This thriller has its foundation in forensic science, and that was very interesting - everyone seems to be an expert these days, after watching TV series like CSI, and it was a great idea to juxtapose that with what forensic science actually can (and cannot) do. The setup was classic "impossible, but it happened - but how could it have happened". However, I felt there were way too many plot threads, and at times too much dry technical information and many extraneous details about gaming, which detracted from the flow of the story. I did like the fact that the author raised some interesting ethical issues, but overall it was not more than an okay read for me.
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Red Flags who knew you needed to keep account of all that were thrown up in this novel! 

When I first started reading, like second paragraph, I was - well this might not be for me, then the fourth paragraph then chapter after chapter flew by, getting deeper and deeper into the real story about a real issue in our modern society. Excellent story, enriched detail of the characters and the DC culture 

Thank you Lisa Black for writing a great novel and giving us a new series of forensic thriller in the Locard Institute Thrillers and  NetGalley and Kensington Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
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A good start to what I hope will be a new series featuring two forensic scientists- Ellie with the FBI and Rachel from the Locard Institute (shades of Bones!).  The kidnapping of the child of two high powered DC figures sets off a topical mystery that's also a cautionary tale.  Ellie's back story- she was a foster child who rotated between many families notably that of her cousin, the mom of the missing child- is compelling,  Rachel is no less interesting.  Things amp up both forensically and emotionally when other children go missing but these two, along with their other law enforcement colleagues. rise to the challenge.  No spoilers.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I'm looking forward to the next one.
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Lisa Black’s books are always on my must have list and book one of the Locard Institute series Red Flags is no exception. Enriched with the interesting world of forensics through the eyes of heroine, Ellie Carr, I was captivated from the start. I also got a glimpse into the terrifying influence technology, specifically gaming, has on children.  I look forward to the next book.
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Excellent book! Lies, kidnappers, and greedy people are threaded through the pages. A smart FBI agent Dr. Ellie Carr from Evidence Response Team is working to find a missing 4-month-old boy. It's fast-paced and has all sorts of twists and you will be left thinking is it her, or him, or what does this person have to do with everything? Is the baby alive, why are other children disappearing and what ties all the happenings together? It's a race to make sure they are all brought back alive. This book touches on an issue facing our society right now, it's real and it's dangerous. I'm glad Lisa Black wrote this story and opens the eyes of parents to potential dangers online. There are several surprises I bet you don't guess ahead of the reveals. 
Thank you, NetGalley, and Publishers Kensington Books for this early read. This is my viewpoint I would recommend this book. I really like the character Dr. Ellie Carr she's very likable and I look forward to reading more of her character books!
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My review of Red Flags is a hard one to write.  Not because I didn't like it because I did find it to be a very intriguing and unique plot.
 I have to say, I really liked getting to know the main character, Doctor Ellie Carr.  I really want to know more about her and her background.  It was touched on but I want more information.  
My main issue with the story was there was just a overwhelming amount of gaming and forensic technology.  So much info about the process involved with it.  It was just a bit too much for me.  I ended up scheming through some pages due to information overload!
Definitely a fast paced mystery with a very unexpected ending.
I am excited to read this new series by LIsa Black.  Hoping for just a little bit less technical information.
Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read this book for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this novel. I am rating this book based the stars due to lack of time to leave a full review.
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FBI, new-series, forensics, abduction, thriller, relatives, suspense, mystery, secrets, government-offices, politics, ethics, online-gaming****

This is an amazingly detailed book that actually took me quite a bit of notating to keep the characters cohesive. The storyline is both complex and seems to compound (and sometimes confound). The interpersonals are well set up to continue into more in series, and that is a very good thing. The publisher's blurb is a good hook and not recap is needed. Loved it!
I requested and received a free e-book copy from Kensington Books via NetGalley. Thank you!
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I’m a long time lover of CSI and love the challenge of trying to solve a case before the professionals, so this book was a good fit for me. I’ll admit to being hesitant to start this one after reading the synopsis and discovering that it centered around the kidnapping of children. However, I was surprised how fast-paced and intense this book was and will admit to putting off several things I should have been doing in order to finish this book! 

Stuffed full of ethical ponderings and shocking secrets, this book is told from a unique perspective. Where most investigative style books are written from the investigating police officer’s point of view, this one is refreshingly told from the crime scene analyst’s viewpoint. I noticed that after some initial hand holding, I was running ahead of the analyst and noting things to investigate as evidence. It kept me engaged. 

While the forensic technology and process intrigued me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I skimmed plenty over the gaming sections. I did get the intended message, of online safety, despite skipping large sections. In the same way, I did enjoy an intelligent read, but ended up scribbling crib notes for myself as clues and as reminders for character reference as I felt there were too many for me to remember! 

This is a great thriller written by a forensic scientist and crime scene investigator who at one time also worked in the coroner’s office trace evidence lab. It definitely oozes authenticity. 

I was gifted this advance copy by Lisa Black, Kensington Books, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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