Reading Exposed Fury by author Marie Flanigan is both a treat and an interesting experience that is certainly unique for the mystery genre. Flanigan resists telling a typically formulaic, action-packed story for one that resonates with an undertone of authority. In many ways, Exposed Fury holds a mirror to real life, both in the overall atmosphere of the story’s setting and the realistic ways that the investigator and her allies perform real detective work to slowly unravel the story of the victim’s life, and what events brought them to their tragic end.
We meet the main character, Annie Fitch, right away. She is standing at a crime scene, yet it’s clear that this is not typical police work. Here we get a portrait of a woman who used to be a cop, but is now just walking her dog through the sleepy, snow-covered town of Leesburg, Virginia. Her dog Chester, who adds a big dose of lovable disruption throughout the story at just the right moments, discovers a body. This is how we learn that Annie is a former detective, so she knows how to do things like preserve evidence, but also must call the active police to report a crime. It is with great reluctance that she walks away once they arrive, as it’s clear she would love to join them in their latest case, especially since she knows many of them, including a big man named Gunnar Jansson who used to be her partner.
Thankfully for readers, Annie does get involved in the case through her new job as a private investigator. It’s worth noting that our lead investigator is a very realistic character, not some superman or Sherlock Holmes type of detective. In fact, she left the force after getting shot and nearly killed. She still walks with a limp and has a brain injury that flares up when she is stressed. She is making ends meet as a private investigator, though it’s clear that she is better than her current station in life. She is doing what she must to survive in this world, very much like the rest of us, making her immensely relatable while her actions and interactions with others make her likable too.
As she gets into the investigation, she calls on some of her old contacts still on the police force, like Jansson, for help at different times. This in no way diminishes her self-reliance, but one gets the feeling that good police and investigative work is often a team effort, unlike what most of us see on television or the movies. It was enjoyable to see the difficult but interesting work that goes into methodically solving a case.
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On the mystery itself, there are quite a few twists and turns. Readers will likely come up with their own ideas about who the guilty party is and why as new suspects are revealed. There are enough clues that a careful reader might get an idea about the real facts of the case alongside Annie, but the solution is in no way handfed. It’s not unbelievable either. Annie is not some deus ex machina force who solves the unknowable. Even if you are not particularly paying attention to the mystery aspect, the solution will make perfect sense.
Many of these kinds of mysteries are also vehicles for romance, but Exposed Fury thankfully does not fall into that trope. Following the realism theme, Annie comes across as a typical woman with the same kinds of problems and hopes for romance as the rest of us. She is in a serious relationship with a man named Ford who is some kind of government contractor. We don’t know if he is assassinating people overseas or setting up wireless networks in warzones, but he’s gone for weeks at a time, a fact that Annie laments as would anyone else in such a relationship. Ford also does not like Jansson, which is amusing as work and personal friends often don’t get along in real life either.
Like the plot and the mystery, the characterization can best be described as realistic. It’s easy for readers to put themselves in the shoes of the main character, but also many of the secondary characters throughout the book. They are both realistic and for the most part likable, if sometimes quirky, again, like real people.
There is one more character in the book worth noting, and that is the town of Leesburg, Virginia. Technically the setting of most of the tale, it nonetheless is described in great, beautiful details. We get to walk down its streets, eat in its diners, visit its shops and talk with its citizens. It’s perhaps a little bit of an idyllic portrayal of the historic city sitting in the middle of one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, but it’s clear that the author spent a lot of time there and enjoys describing some of its hidden byways and delightful little secrets.
Exposed Fury introduces readers to a unique heroine who is strong and self-reliant while also vulnerable and believable. Readers probably can’t help but hope that Annie Fitch will go on to solve more crimes in future books. Then perhaps we can be treated to more honest detective work, cunning mysteries and well-paced plotting as she engages in new adventures. Pick this one up if you want to lose yourself in a well-researched and realistic mystery adventure.