RUNNER by Tracy Clark

RUNNER is the fourth book in a phenomenal series by Tracy Clark. In this book we once again reunite with the homicide detective turned Private Investigator, Cass Raines.

If you are not already familiar with Cass Raines then I think that is a problem that you should fix. Truthfully RUNNER is a book that you will be able to get into without reading the previous books in this series. But in order to appreciate the growth of the main character I think it is imperative to start where it all starts, BROKEN PLACES. Don’t worry, it is a journey you will not regret taking. 

When we begin RUNNER we discover that, as expected, Cass is still very much Cass. She is still a terrible actress and the definition of “what you see is what you get”. As a former Chicago Police Officer she has seen more than her fair share of tragedy both professionally and personally. Having faced the heartache of a mother who died when she was still a child and dealing with the aftermath of a father who promptly abandoned her, Cass is aware that she could have easily been put into the foster care system had it not been for her grandparents stepping in. That experience has shaped her into the woman she is today.

Of course not everyone is as fortunate and it surely tugged at her heart strings when she was approached by a mother, Leesa Evans, who is a recovering addict. We learn that Leesa has lost custody of her fifteen year old child, Ramona Titus, to the foster care system and is working toward getting her back. Unfortunately, Ramona’s foster mother, Deloris Poole, has reported the teenager as a runaway. Despite the police being on the case (I am feeling generous- so we will just say they’re on the case) Cass agrees to find the missing teenager.

Undoubtedly what will resonate with readers is the way Cass goes about tackling this case. While the Cass from the first book, BROKEN PLACES, is certainly still alive and well (jumping off of buses and chasing kids in the snow as we all did at 28) she is a little less rash (she knows good and well if she busts her butt in the snow that it is game over for her mid-thirties body). She is a bit more patient, overall, and less willing to throw away things that matter. But as we age, aren’t we all?

I felt that Cass did not take on Ramona’s case for the same reasons in which she has selected most of her previous cases. In prior books I would say that she was motivated by stubborn determination. In RUNNER I felt like she was dedicated to this case because it mattered. Maybe it hit a bullseye on her moral compass. Maybe the girl’s biological mom caught her on a really good day and Cass was swayed while eating a burger at White Castle. Who wouldn’t be tempted to take on anything when sitting in front of a cheeseburger at White Castle?

Either way, it felt right and it felt very much real. Stepping in to save a child who has fallen through the many cracks in the foster care system is as noble a cause as any that I can imagine. I cannot think of anyone who would be a better fit to fight for such a cause.

Chicago is notorious for having seriously harsh weather. Let me tell you it felt like Winter was a character of its own. Winter in RUNNER was basically that friend of yours who would wear a bright yellow t-shirt as a dress to the club… loud and ready to get you all beat up before last call. From the first page Winter slaps you in the face and promises not to let up until long after Christmas. I loved it! I have not read a book that better described what cold weather feels like. Since this series is set in Chicago I was really pleased that it finally went there on us. 

Clark brilliantly married so many important societal elements into this mystery, it was impressive and meaningful. This is possibly the realest mystery I have read to date because it is something that is happening around us even as I type this. The author did not shy away from confronting the horrifying truth about the underreporting of black children who are missing. RUNNER also confronts the exploitation of foster youth by agencies and parents. At points throughout the book I wanted to pretend this was truly just fiction, but even if this book is classified as such it doesn’t mean it isn’t a mirror of reality. Clark proves that it does not take volumes to speak volumes.

If only there were millions of Cass Raines out there willing to protect foster children everywhere. RUNNER gives us something heavy to sit with and think about. 

However, there is a signature levity in this series that presents itself well here. I cannot tell you how many times I laughed out loud because I do find Cass to be hilarious. She also has a cast of friends that readers have come to know and love. My favorite is her kleptomaniac acquaintance who would steal the flowers off of his grandma’s grave if given five seconds. I would love a whole book about him. Speaking of love, there maybe a touch of that too if she can overcome the unenviable challenge of dating a man who has a teenage daughter.

It all made for an amazing read. One day, mark my words, we will be putting this series up there on the shelf next to the works of Eleanor Taylor Bland. It is that good.

In conclusion… Cass Raines reigns supreme.

Many thanks to Tracy Clark for sharing this book with us. Tracy Clark’s Website contains information on all of the prior books in this series as well as a mailing list where you can subscribe for news and updates. Be sure to follow Tracy Clark on Twitter @tracypc6161.


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