This is another fast-paced thriller from Owen Laukkanen featuring Minnesota B.C.A. agent, Kirk Stevens, and Carla Windermere, the F.B.I. agent with whom Stevens is always partnered in these novels. The story is set in the world of sex trafficking and opens in a dark, steamy, rancid shipping container. A number of young women from eastern Europe are locked in the box, having been shipped to America on a freighter, unloaded on the east coast, and then trucked across the country. At stops along the way, the box is briefly unlocked and a few more women are dragged out and sold to American buyers who will enslave them in strip clubs and low-end brothels.
By the time the container and the truck it is riding on arrive in Minnesota, two of the young women remaining captive in the container are sisters named Irina and Catalina Milosovici. Irina had fallen for the charms of an American hustler named Mike who promised that he would smuggle her into the U.S. where she would find glamorous work as a model or a movie star. Her sister decided to follow in her footsteps, only to discover too late the horror that was to be their real fate.
As the truck stops in Minnesota, Irina and Catalina mange to break free, surprising the two thugs who are transporting them. A deputy sheriff happens upon the scene and one of the thugs shoots him to death. The two bad guys manage to recapture Catalina and pitch her back into the box. Irina grabs the deputy's gun and fruitlessly empties the clip against the back of the truck that is now racing away from the scene, carrying her sister and the other remaining captives.
Enter Stevens and Windermere who embark on a cross-country marathon to find the truck and rescue the women who have fallen victim to these smugglers. It's a race against time and against a ruthless group of traffickers who will stop at nothing to protect the business they have built and the profits they are reaping from it. The two sisters are principal characters and refuse to meekly submit to their fate. They and all of the other characters are very well drawn and emerge vividly from the page.
The relationship between Stevens and Windermere continues to be one of the most interesting among the male/female partnerships in crime fiction, and the developments within Stevens's continue to be of importance, especially as his sixteen-year-old daughter begins to exhibit many of the normal interests of a girl of that age while her father reacts to these interests as most fathers always have through the ages.
This is another page-turner from Owen Laukkanen that also provides an eye-opening look into a pretty awful corner of human commerce. Plan on being awake well into the night.