In music, “crescendo” indicates a gradual increase in force or loudness. If Deborah J. Ledford’s three-book Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Thriller Series (Staccato, 2009, Snare, 2010, Crescendo, 2013) were a concerto, the audience would leave the concert hall at the end of the performance electrified by the force of the third movement and the virtuosity of soloist Inola Walela.
Crescendo (Second Wind Publishing, January 27) begins with great force when antagonists Preston Durand and private investigator Hondo Polk push Billy Carlton to tell them what he knows about the location of Durand’s son and ex-wife. The book’s volume increases when Inola’s partner is killed during a traffic stop by a bullet that might have come from her gun and a female passenger in the stopped car is struck and killed by another vehicle just after she says, “I got you the money. Where is my son?”
Though she’s a decorated Bryson City, North Carolina police officer, Inola is put on administrative leave pending a departmental investigation into the deaths at the scene. She’s told to stay away from the investigation, including trying follow up on her gut feeling that the woman’s son has been kidnapped.
Inola’s fiancé Steven Hawk, now the county sheriff, wants to play everything by the book. He tells Inola that there’s no evidence of a kidnapping and the city police and county sheriff’s departments can’t take action until evidence and leads, if any, materialize—and she is to stay home.
Readers of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Series were introduced to Inola in Staccato when Hawk, who was a sheriff’s deputy then, first became aware of her: “Hawk had noticed Inola Walela, the only female cop on the Bryson City police force. She was captivating, beautiful, smart, tough, exactly what he hoped to find in a woman.”
Inola, who played a larger, but secondary, role in Snare, is Ledford’s on-the-hot-seat protagonist in Crescendo. She comes into her own in this tense novel as a three-dimensional, risk-taking police officer who needs to find the young woman’s son and who has kidnapped him even though she may be suspended or terminated regardless of what she learns.
This is a richly told psychological and physical thriller. Ledford, who knows her characters and her settings well, increases the volume of this story until the last shot is fired.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “Sarabande’ and “The Sun Singer.”