Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review. All opinions are my own.
She was young, smart, and beautiful. An activist who loved protecting the environment down to the smallest snail. But when she is discovered naked, stabbed multiple times, and dramatically posed in her beloved state park with a black orchid adorning her chest, the speculations fly. Who would want to murder Chloe Sumner in this most brutal way? Was it a jealous classmate, an unrequited crush, class rival, ex-boyfriend, or someone entirely different? Detectives Steele and Stenson are on the case, following up lead after lead but the more progress they make, there always seems to be something that sets them back. Then when a second body is discovered the rumblings of a serial killer begin. The similarities between Chloe’s murder and the newest victim are almost identical but also very similar to a cold case from twenty years ago. Is there a possibility that the killer has returned, but why now? As Amanda gets closer to the truth, she also must navigate a personal development that may threaten her looming adoption of Zoe. Can she keep her personal concerns out of her professional life, or will her growing affection for the little girl cause a distraction that ends up placing Detective Steele in harm’s way?
Black Orchid Girls is the fourth in the Detective Amanda Steele series of books by international best-selling author Carolyn Arnold. Picking up shortly after the close of “The Silent Witness”, Amanda and the orphaned Zoe have settled into a comfortable routine. While Zoe may never be a replacement for Amanda’s daughter she is helping to heal old wounds and vanquish the demons of grief. Having read this series from the beginning, the change in Detective Steele from “The Little Grave” and “Black Orchid Girls” is like night and day. The once resigned, self-destructive, hard-hearted Amanda is more vibrant, optimistic, and levelheaded. As I get more into this series it is apparent that this is not your typical police procedural novel. In crafting this series, Arnold has taken great care to provide a realistic backstory for even what seems to be the smallest character. In this approach we also see some backstories interweaving with characters in other books. I like this as it leaves options open for a larger cross-story adventure in the future rather than the occasional Brandon Fisher cameo. With Black Orchid Girls, Arnold has once again delivered a page-turner of a novel that will have the reader guessing until the final reveal. As with all of Arnold’s books that I have read to date, even though this is part of a larger series, Black Orchid Girls can also be enjoyed as a standalone novel without the reader feeling as if they are missing parts of the story. With this chapter of Detective Steele’s life coming to a close along with the case, I am eager to see what Carolyn Arnold has planned in the upcoming books in this series.