I am lucky that I received a copy of Fatal Exchange to review this month. I love suspense and mystery and this book kept me guessing. One minute I thought I had it solved only to have yet another layer to the plot that surprised me.
Rafael Cerda is a young man attending a private school on a scholarship after pulling himself out of the pit of poverty that comes often in single parent families. His father passed away from a drug overdose and his mother works in a laundry and Rafael delivers papers and does odd jobs to help out the family. He participates in a Big Brother Program that has had an impact on a life that could have gone south in a drug ridden neighborhood. His younger brother Eduardo has had the benefit of all this hard work but missed the hard working gene, preferring to be a dealer instead. Enter the cartel leaders he owes money to and you have a drug deal about to go as sour as it can get.
Mason Taylor, handsome undercover cop who volunteers at the Big Brother Program is part of the positive influence on Rafael Cerda's life. Mason is beset with his own issues to deal with, coming off the death of his partner Michael Hunt and the imminent death of his own long absent father. Blamed by Michael's family for his death, Mason has a lot to prove in clearing his name and setting things right with the Hunt family.
Emily Hunt is Rafael's teacher and youngest daughter of the Hunt family. She didn't join the family business as a cop, choosing instead to make an impact on students' lives. All seems to be right in her world when she is met by Mason with the news that he was looking for Rafael. Unable to connect the dots with him on this urgent need to connect with Rafael, he shows her pictures he received in a text from Rafael: Eduardo is shown beaten with threats to kill him if ransom isn't met!
A race begins to find Rafael so they can save Eduardo and prevent the loss of another member of the Cerda family to drugs. However, something happens to switch things up with Eduardo and Rafael. Rafael enters the classroom with a gun and hold the entire class hostage. Emily is left to try to keep her students calm, but how long can she keep it cool when one of the girls, an asthmatic, begins to have severe problems breathing. Will Rafael back down? Emily is a courageous woman who fights for the safety of her students; the hostages and the hostage taker.
What follows could be spoilers to a well crafted plot so I am not going to share spoilers. I will say though, that this is a good read for anyone who likes a mystery! This is my first experience with Lisa Harris' writing and I plan to look for more. I like a book that challenges my crime solving abilities, albeit wishful thinking, to keep my mind going. This is the second book in her Southern Crimes Series, so I will be looking for Dangerous Passage to get the full series in before book three comes out in 2015.