The Janes by Louise Luna jacket“The similarly determined Alice Vega of Louise Luna’s The Janes is a former bounty hunter, now private investigator, known for her skills in locating missing people and her relentless drive to find answers no matter the method (which readers will remember from Luna’s first Vega novel, Two Girls Down).

When two Latinx teen girls are found dead near the Mexican border, a commander from the San Diego police department hires Vega to identify the victims and find any other girls who might be missing as part of a sex-trafficking operation. What made him think of Alice? Well, her aforementioned skills, her willingness to stay out of the spotlight—and the fact that one of the girls had a piece of paper in her hand with Vega’s name written on it.

Vega calls Max “Cap” Caplan, whom she worked with in Two Girls Down, and offers him $10,000 to help her. He’s a calm and thoughtful retired detective who trusts her completely, even when things get (more than) a little wild. Together, the two make an intelligent, innovative team that gets results, whether using the serial numbers on IUDs to track down sex-trafficking perpetrators or intuitively and masterfully improvising when interviewing wary criminals.

That’s why it’s decidedly odd that, once they go to the commander with suspects and theories about the workings of the crime ring, he tells them to back off—he’ll update the DEA and SDPD, and handle it from there. Not surprisingly, Vega and Cap do the opposite of backing off. Instead, they push even harder, diving into dangerous situations with glee (Vega) and reluctant optimism (Cap), determined to roust the bad guys and expose wrongdoing no matter where it lives.

Luna skillfully balances tragedy and humor throughout, via blood-pressure-raising fight scenes and stressful suspense, plus hints of romantic tension between Vega and Cap. She also offers a fascinating and disturbing look at how a criminal enterprise might work, pulling in various complex threads while crafting a story that’s wholly believable and sad.

The Janes is a superbly entertaining read, especially for readers who are already fans of the amazing Vega, whose Jack Reacher-esque sense of justice offers reassurance that, no matter how long it takes, no bad deed will go unpunished.”

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