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on March 22, 2018
Reading a Violet Darger novel always feels like coming home to an old friend—we hang out, we drink some coffee, we talk about her and Loshak’s personal lives, we interview victims’ families, we chase down some serial killers—all the stuff you normally do with your friends, except better. More exciting. So exciting, in fact, that I usually stupidly start reading them at ten o’clock at night, thinking I’m just going to check out the first chapter or two before bed, then realize at five in the morning my kindle says I’ve only got ten percent left to go and I can’t put it down, I HAVE to know what happens. The Girl in the Sand was no different. A flock of wild crowbars couldn’t pry this book from my hands. Darn you, Violet, always getting into trouble the second I start to think it might be safe to turn in for the night!

In addition to giving us a glimpse into the lives of our favorite FBI criminal profilers, Darger’s books also help us connect with the most overlooked element in the serial killer equation: the victim. The Girl in the Sand takes this to a whole new level, fully immersing us in Emily’s fight to survive the most feared serial killer in Las Vegas history, Leonard Stump. Emily’s no overpowered protagonist or cliched whore with a heart of gold. She’s just a woman who caught Stump’s eye, the next victim in his inevitable killing spree.

“They always say ‘it could happen to anyone,’ but in a way, I think it’s better said, ‘it actually happens to someone.’ Every awful thing, every tragedy, every nightmare—it happens to someone. A person. A real live human being.” … “This time, it’s us.”

While Darger and Loshak are chasing leads and burning cars across Vegas, Emily’s fighting for her survival and her sanity at Stump’s hands. There’s no way she can win, but she keeps fighting because sometimes just not losing is the closest you can get to victory. In a way, that’s both horrifying and inspiring…which is why I have about fifty passages from her chapters highlighted. In addition to writing incredible, action-packed suspense, Vargus and McBain toss off gems of truth like it ain’t no thang to bring the disturbing realities of the world into such sharp relief.

The Girl in the Sand takes everything the Violet Darger stories have been building on, then cranks that to eleven and blows all the speakers. There’s a point during one of Loshak’s chapters where he muses that every desperate act springs from a fatalism in the person committing it. Well, it’s probably a good thing Darger didn’t hear him think that, because it doesn’t get much more fatalistic than that climax or more desperate than Darger’s last stand. If your pulse isn’t pounding by the time the showdown with Stump ends, then you need to see a cardiologist immediately.
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on March 22, 2018
Wow. This is the best book in the series so far! I just finished it and I'm already wishing I had another book so I could find out what happens to Violet and Loshak next. It's really a bummer that it's over. I'm about to make a bad joke, so brace yourself. ok? OK.

Violet should change her last name to DANGER.

ok I'm really sorry about that.

But seriously, folks, this book has me shook. I stayed up three nights in a row to read it, and I regret nothing! If you're a new reader you're in for a treat, because you get to binge and binging is the best.

A couple things stand out when I think about why I love these books. First of all, the dialogue. It's hard to master really good, believable dialogue. I'm not a writer but I am a reader, and I know it's hard because so many authors miss the mark with dialogue. It just feels like you're reading a book when the characters talk. And really, it's not supposed to feel like that. It's supposed to feel like a real conversation. And these authors nail it every single time.

Another thing. I love horror. That's my specialty. I'm not really into crime fiction. But these books are kind of a nice combination of crime fiction and horror. Ok nice might not be the right word to use. How about gruesome. Or thrilling? Terrifying? Gripping? They're all that. They suck you in right away. And you just can't put them down until it's over. And then you wish you could read the next one immediately. They're pretty much perfect. Like a large, fresh, warm pizza. Delicious and satisfying.

If you've read any books by L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain, you know how they have this way of getting inside people's heads and expressing complex ideas in a really believable way. That's probably my favorite thing about them. It's also the main reason I wouldn't advise crossing them. Because anybody who can get inside the mind of a killer like they do? Well, I wouldn't want to get on their bad side.

And that's the sickest part isn't it? Their stories always show how much we have in common with the monsters. How close we really are. It's not as far as you think to the other side. You can glimpse evil in the bathroom mirror. You can find it without even leaving home.

So buckle up, kids, and hold on tight. It's gonna be a hell of a ride.

ps. if you haven't read the supplemental mini books in between these, you really should. They add a lot to the whole experience.
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on March 23, 2018
This is probably one of the best books yet from L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain.

The story follows FBI agent Violet Darger as she arrives in Las Vegas, in pursuit of serial killer Leonard Stump, who has apparently emerged from retirement and resumed killing after a 20-year hiatus.

I don't want to give spoilers, so I will go light on details, but this book held me spellbound while I was reading it. I literally could not put it down, and was up until 4:00 am because I *HAD* to find out how it ended.

I liked the fact that they didn't resort to "deus ex machina" at the end. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it's very suspenseful, and it's a pet peeve of mine when authors put characters into impossible situations and then pull some unbelievable gimmick out of thin air to miraculously extract them and save the day. That's not the case in this book, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

I would recommend that people read the books in order. This book builds upon previous books, and someone trying to read this as a stand-alone novel would likely feel lost.
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on March 25, 2018
I realize that I need to stop being such a fan boy of these authors, or risk potential readers ignoring my reviews. To that end, I've decided to avoid any hyperbole in this review, and just give the reader a straight shootin' rootin' tootin' opinion of the novel.
Cover: Nope, do not like it, as it doesn't seem to reference anything in the novel. Not the location, not the geography, and not a Joshua tree.
Title: Very appropriate, perhaps the plural of girl would be the only improvement.
Characters: Realistic and as fully formed as required for the story. Would have liked to see more involvement by the minor characters, but I am a greedy sob!
Story: Concise and well paced, allowing no safe place to stop reading. This novel uses its excellent plot to move along at a brisk pace, never relaxing enough to encourage the reader to become distracted by real life. Even the law enforcement procedures are sparing, but interesting to read. Kudos for the research completed by the authors in preparation. The main plot never sacrifice it's importance, even to the secondary plot that emerges later in the book. I must say I appreciate a thrilling read that presents just the right amount of information, characters fleshed out just enough to seem authentic, yet not in excess to become distracting. The authors nailed this balance early and maintained it throughout. Well done.
Ending: Not without a surprise or two, not unrealistic, neither completely satisfying nor enraging.
Nits I can't resist picking: Seafoam tiled claw foot bathtub. Wait, what now?
Oh, "F YOU!" AUTHORS!: End of chapter 52.

Summary: I once wrote in an earlier review of an earlier novel crafted by Vargus and McBain that they had "come into their own" and that novel was the "finest so far".

I am happy they accepted my challenge, and proved me wrong!
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on March 22, 2018
I want to say once again that this is NOT my usual taste in books, but I make an exception for the Violet Darger series. Books about serial killers and FBI profilers usually put me to sleep, but the Darger books just keep getting better and better. I recommend reading them in order, although they can be read out of order (like John MacDonald's Travis McGee novels) without causing much confusion: 1. Dead End Girl 2. Killing Season 3. The Girl in the Sand. Vargus and McBain have become more confident handlers of Darger in Book 3; this book has the best pacing of the series.
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on April 2, 2018
The next book in the Darger/Loshak series is an intense, page turner. It picks up where the last book left off. Kodak in Law Vegas and has Darger on the way. Loshak has traced the case of his life there. Sure that he's found Leonard Stump aga, a serial killer he's been chasing for 20 years. But proving that will cost not just them, but others a price that may be too high for all involved to pay.

The local police don't believe the team. Though they are standing at the scene of a current murder that has every sign of a Stump killing. They refuse to believe that he's still killing at his age. This new horrific killing is not going to be released in the news it's Vegas. It's bad for business after all. Besides,but just a couple of hookers.

After Darger uncovers a grisly crime scene that they can tie to one of the first killings where a victim got away, local authorities have to agree. Stump not just still killing, he's slaughtering women in a large number. As the search for Stump is conducted it will lead both Loshak and Darger to the most dangerous night of their lives.
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on March 23, 2018
Every great serial killer story is a game of cat and mouse, one where, at least with the very best, you're never quite sure who's the predator and who's the prey.

As much as I enjoyed the intense personal relationship between the tortured brothers in "Killing Season," I was happy to see the return of Leonard Stump. Who is, and always has been, this series' primary antagonist. The killer of all killer. The devil in the details.

I don't always like procedurals. Some of them get too caught up in what it's like to be a cop, what it's like to be a robber, but the Darger novels aren't like that. While they have enough trappings to lend an air of authenticity, they, like most really good books, are about what it's like to be a human, to have the potential for remarkable good and terrifying evil wrestling within us at all times.

Darger, Loshak, Stump, and primary victim Emily, play out the possible permutations of this potential in thrilling set pieces. Stump, who has "evolved" past his humanity in so many ways forces Darger to court her own darkness, to debate what it means to be on the right side of things, whether there are sides at all. Loshak, who has always been the wiser if not always the most breathtaking of the partners, finds himself struggling to make sense of his old enemy's madness. And Emily, who is a different and wonderful secondary protagonist in a world where female victims are no longer helpless damsels, fights for her survival against the cruelties of a random, apathetic world. Each of these characters serve as stand-ins for the reader during various points, dragging you into their minds, whispering their worried words into your ears.

It's a terrific cast: equal parts light and dark, and even when things turn monstrous, undeniably human in a way that makes their tragedies more heartbreaking and their sins more chilling.

Dotting the dessert landscape between the tension-building beginning and the pulse-pounding end, is some snappy dialogue, some fun bits of action, and enough excitement to keep you happily turning pages to get to the next reveal. The growth of the relationship between Darger and Loshak is a particular bright spot for those who have been following this story since the beginning.

It's good stuff in a series that has always been part "Fargo," part "Silence of the Lambs," with characters that could share a room with those from the aforementioned works without being overshadowed.

It's good vs evil without ever becoming black vs white. It's the genre at its best.

It's a book you should buy and read.
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on March 21, 2018
Beautifully written....snappy and hard-hitting, as always! If you haven't read anything by them, you're an idiot. Go buy something now! Hard to put down...and really, what more can you ask of a thriller? It stands on it's own two feet but is part of a series. Do yourself a favor and get the whole group of the Violet Darger series so you won't have to waste time buying the early ones once you've gotten hooked. ;)

I got an ARC, but I love their writing so much that I bought a copy too. They are THAT GOOD.
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on March 24, 2018
Well, i might have if i was reading and driving...my children thought something was wrong with the amount of "OH NO"s, gasps and forhead slaps going on while i was reading this one. I just could not believe the situations our beloved Violet and Loshak got into this time around. I was in tears by the time i got through the epilogue and i can't believe the final outcome...whaaaattt!
If your new to Tim and L.T, welcome to the club. Every story i've read written by this dynamic duo has caused some sort of reaction and emotional response. This is part of a series, but be read by itself. If you want to know more Violet and Loshak, the series is also Ah-mazing!
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on March 28, 2018
I have become a fan girl of Violet Darger, fearless and determined , her restless mind always focused. A few times I thought this reads like someone that has known a serial killer, yes, that intense! The profiler training with the FBI, and her gut instincts are very on target. Getting into the head of the victims and the serial killer, in their wrenching and fierce need to ; survive and kill. Beyond a doubt, this book, is my favorite . When you discover the girl in the sand, you'll have true fear, I shut my eyes and could see her.
While you needn't read the previous Darger books to understand this book you will want to.
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