||Sonora Blair returns in a case that pushes the Cincinnati detective closer to her emotional edges and allows Author Lynn Hightower to probe more deeply into her heroine's psyche than she has in her four previous suspense thrillers. This time the divorced mother of two investigates a home invasion in which an entire family striving to hold onto its tenuous grasp on the middle class is brutally murdered, except its youngest member, a 4-month-old infant. But before the baby's mother expires, she manages to whisper one phrase to Sonora: "The Angel came." Was it a heavenly messenger that comforted Joy Stinnet as she lay dying, or a more sinister visitor? Sonora's partner Sam doesn't put much faith in the deathbed declaration, but Blair isn't certain. As she investigates what turns out to have been a savage visit from a couple of thugs collecting on a bad debt, she gets a lead on the killers from an unlikely source: a retired cop with a reputation as a hero and a close connection with her own boss.
Although she's seen her share of murders, this case exacerbates all of Blair's fears for the safety of her own kids and the security of their surroundings. Hightower's skillful depiction of her protagonist's emotional vulnerability, especially the guilt every single mother feels about shortchanging her kids for her career, invests this well-paced mystery with particular resonance and showcases the author's increasingly multidimensional characterizations. The Debt Collector is a good read in a series that gets better with every new book. --Jane Adams