Book Two of the ‘Jade & Sage Thriller Series’ by Joanna Vander Vlugt
Oscar, a man in his 70s who needs dialysis three times a week, is bargaining with Edith, longtime friend and retired nurse, who is about to give him a lethal dose of fentanyl. He had a long, rich life, and waiting for a transplant will only prolong his misery.
It’s better in this way, he convinces Edith.
She accepts, she has to, but she can’t stop feeling guilty.
The scene moves to Jade, a lawyer who successfully defended her ex-husband from a murder charge (in Book One, available here), only to find him brutally murdered six months before the beginning of our story. She is now struggling with bad dreams, her Vicodin addiction, her mental health and a counsellor that stopped her therapy sessions to get a better job, on the verge of her recovery. She lives with her new boyfriend, Osmond, an undercover policeman waiting for a new assignment. When he finally receives it, it’ not good news: he has to leave soon for Montreal, where the new assignment will take the best part of a year, if not longer. There isn’t much Jade can do, if not breaking up with him on the spot, ride her motorbike, and drive to her office, where she will bury herself in her job.
Sage, Jade’s sister, texts her she is coming over with a box of their deceased mother’s art, who was a painter in her 20s, but, for reasons unknown to the two sisters, stopped abruptly. Her work is still notable, and Sage insists that Jade should have a memento of their mother too.
In a flashback, the one of several happening during the narration, we discover that Edith and Genie were best friends at university and Genie knew Oscar too. Their connection was so strong that Edith was jealous of her.
Back to the present, Jade receives a phone call from Sergeant Stone. Charles, her father, is dead: cocaine overdose. It’s a double shock for the sisters. It’s already tragic enough to lose a parent, but losing him in such usual circumstances, is even more devastating. Since when did their father make use of drugs? Once the police are done at his place, the two sisters are allowed inside, and they are asked to point out anything missing or misplaced. They find pictures of Valentina Vane, another lawyer, who more than once rivalled Jade in court. They had no idea she was Charles’s lady friend.
Before his death, Charles was looking up newspaper articles from the 90s about unsolved murder cases that authorities believed to be drug-related. He also had articles about Oscar. Did he know him? The girls also notice that his cell phone and laptop are nowhere to be found, only the chargers, and, in the bin, there are pictures of Valentina and Charles. Was there trouble in paradise?
The police leave the scene and the girls remain to have another look. They have to break the news to Dr Vlasic, the kind, retired neighbour. It turns out that he has the laptop, he explains Charles gave it to him and that he was going to pick it up the day following the night he died. He also reports that Valentina and Charles had broken up, and the night before she’d showed up with two men to collect her stuff, but nothing had actually been removed.
In another flashback we see Jade as a child, visiting Oscar with her mom. Not long after Adam Malone arrives; he’s Archie’s son, Oscar’s best friend, his number two and a drug dealer too, a detail about Oscar that was already lingering in the air but that is finally out in the open.
The two kids are playing in Oscar’s garden, when a man kidnaps Jade. All the adults come out of the house and Genie shouts to Oscar ‘Go get our girl’. He does, Jade is safe, but that’s the last time Adam sees her. He finds her again 25 years later thanks to social media. We find him in his house with Oscar’s two bodyguards. Oscar has just passed away and Adam has a delivery for Jade. In the envelope he gives her, there are five thumbnails and two keys. Jade doesn’t even have the time to put the pieces together when another phone call disrupts her life: Charles’s old house, the one now belonging to her and her sister, is on fire. Not long after this event, Valentina sets up a meeting with Jade. A series of coincidences? Jade doesn’t believe in coincidences.
While listening to the recordings that Oscar left her on the thumbnails Adam delivered, Jade finds out that yes, Oscar and Genie had an intense and passionate love story, but that’s not the only thing unravelling from the recordings Jade listens to in this action-packed thriller, told with a superb narrative voice.
The story is fast, but never leaves the reader behind, wondering who is who and what just happened. Every event is clearly detailed and skilfully intertwined with the others, the use of flashbacks is fantastic, it gives Vander Vlugt the possibility to tell entire chunks of the story avoiding long, expositional paragraphs while continuously pushing the narration forward, feeding the reader new information, but never enough to have a clear look at the bigger picture. The main characters, Jade and her sister Sage, are fresh, vibrant, realistic and very relatable. The touch of supernatural that Vander Vlugt adds from the middle onwards is simply genius – Jade is capable of seeing and communicating with her defunct mother, who has a big favour to ask her. But will Jade accommodate her quest?
You’ll have to read it to the end to find out!
Dealer’s Child is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3n8C41Y
For more information on Joanna’s work you can also visit her website: www.joannavandervlugt.com