Free Fall

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Free Fall (The Quantico Files #3)


Nancy Mehl


Bethany House

Publication Date:

June 2022




368 pages


For longer than FBI analyst Logan Hart wants to admit, he’s been in love with his coworker Alex Donavan. Alex told him that she loved him once, but she was half-sedated in the hospital after a case gone wrong. Alex wonders what she feels for Logan and whether his injuries from the last case have left him unfocused. When a woman disappears and their search shows dozens of women with similar profiles have been disappearing over the last few years, they must put their concerns in the background. However, the kidnapper may not be a standard criminal… or even a standard killer.

Mehl shows from the first page that she knows how to create an efficiently-plotted thriller. She cleverly reorganizes the beginning-middle-end structure so that the story begins at a crisis point, then backs up to what created the crisis point. Mehl also has events from the previous book influence people’s health in this book, throwing a wrench into events. Generally, detective teams in suspense thrillers may reference past events or have injuries from past events, but these things rarely impact the current adventure in a major way. Here, the past won’t stay in its prescribed box, and the team may not be able to help each in the crucial moment.

Despite these intriguing possibilities, Logan and Alex are fairly formulaic. Their history is interesting, but they don’t have much in the characterization department—not even identifiable quirks. Yes, it’s the third book in a series, but the heroes can still be characterized in a way that makes first-time readers fall in love with their story. Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci achieve that in the third book of the Coffey & Hill series, even for readers who never read the earlier books. In Free Fall, the heroes feel a little too standard to command that kind of attention.

The villain presents a larger problem. Mehl provides a creepy setting for the villain to keep victims, and dark hints about his plans. She plants hints of the tragedy that began his dark journey. The way he treats his victims suggests that he may be the worst kind of villain: the killer that doesn’t fit any pathology. Is he too complicated for the heroes to decipher?

All these details should add up to something above the norm. However, everything feels less than the sum of its parts. A creepy setting is only effective if it hasn’t been done before, or the author gives some fresh details to it. The fresh details don’t have to involve gore or baroque weirdness (although that can help, as in Thomas Harris’ Cari Mora). The details could be dark comedy or irony. The details could be stories about the setting, creating a semi-gothic atmosphere (like the forgotten Catskills hotel in William Goldman’s Magic). There could be a name or detail that hasn’t been done before (the unknown killer with a signature way of storing used cigarettes in Irene Hannon’s Dark Ambitions). Mehl never finds the unique thing to congeal her collection of creepy elements into something special.

In other words, the book suffers from being perfectly all right. The sliced-and-rearranged plot structure creates some thrills, but the writing style and ideas never exceed the formula. It’s a perfectly all right crime thriller with romance, serial killer tropes, and action. Sadly, nothing becomes passionate, baroque, or clever enough to take the story beyond perfectly all right.


Rating :

Three out of five stars.

Suggested Audience:

Fans of forensic crime thrillers with a hint of romance.

Christian Impact:

Different characters have different relations to religion, including doubts or questions about whether they can commit to faith (or how to reinforce their faith). There are hints of angelic visitations and answers to prayer in surprising ways.

Note: ECLA readers who enjoy this genre may also enjoy the following:

Free Fall (The Quantico Files, #3)

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