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Unidentified Woman (McKenzie) by David Housewright
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250049650
Date: 02 June 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Millionaire detective Rushmore McKenzie is driving on I94 during a blizzard. He risks his life to rescue a young woman, who has been rolled out of the bed of a pickup truck and into the path of his car. The woman survives the vicious murder attempt but has amnesia. Authorities name her "Fifteen". After six weeks in the hospital, she comes to live with McKenzie and his girlfriend, Nina Truhler. Strange men begin following them, spying on them. Fifteen steals a clutch of weapons from McKenzie's private collection. Soon afterwards, gang members are being murdered one by one. McKenzie must find Fifteen before the gang finds and kills her.

Best-selling author, David Housewright, gives his fans another suspenseful, heartfelt mystery in the Twin Cities, Unidentified Woman #15 [following The Devil May Care and The Last Kind Word (my favorite McKenzie novel)]. Rushmore McKenzie helps a fallen woman who has literally fallen in front of his moving vehicle during a blizzard. Actually, she had some help from some thugs who rolled her from the moving vehicle. This fallen woman has amnesia. Nina Truhler and McKenzie take her into their home and treat her as though she is their daughter. Little by little, Fifteen begins remembering her true identity; she realizes she's not as virtuous as she was hoping to be. She runs away, stealing weapons as she leaves, and breaks Nina's heart. Nina had grown really fond of Fifteen; she even spoke once about adopting her.

Members of an organized crime ring begin dying one by one. Nina and McKenzie don't want to believe that Fifteen is responsible. McKenzie's search for her takes him to Deer River, a small backwoods town in northern Minnesota, where everyone knows each other. I kept thinking about the movie, Deliverance, starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds. Secrets abound and everyone is hiding something. McKenzie himself pretends to be a mastermind criminal, Nick Dyson--an alias he created for a previous case. Sporadic, shocking killings help maintain a fast pacing for this suspenseful, gripping novel.

While reading Unidentified Woman #15, readers will receive a crash course on how to shoplift without getting caught. I never would have thought about freezing clothing with ink cartridges before removing the cartridges with simple tools; frozen ink won't spill. (Remember, McKenzie was a police officer for eleven years before he received a multimillion dollar award for catching a criminal.) He provides shoplifting statistics that are rather shocking.

Readers will also learn that race relations remain strained. McKenzie enlists the help of a recently paroled felon, Herzog. He is an enormous black man who complains that blacks are still treated unfairly in the Twin Cities. While writing this review, the Confederate flag is being removed from many government buildings; this follows the church massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were shot by a racist.

The characters in David Housewright's novels are extremely three dimensional. They come alive to readers who develop attachments to them. Some of us want to believe there is good in everyone, even those who have criminal pasts. I don't like seeing someone hunted down like a dog, even if they are guilty of crimes. Rushmore McKenzie is also like that. He desperately wants to find Fifteen, even though he fears she may be killing people sniper-style with the weapons she stole from him. He and Nina literally risk their lives to locate her. Both of them come extremely close to dying.

The tension mounts as the novel draws to an end. Readers will receive closure but they shouldn't expect a happily-ever-after ending. A lot of guilty people are punished; many go to prison. Nevertheless, Unidentified Woman #15 is a fun read and I can't wait for its sequel.

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