Stranded: Alex Kava’s Brilliant Protagonist in Top Form

Weekly Lizard

Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, an FBI profiler, is fearlessly independent. She also hates air travel. That makes her a perfect target in Stranded, the latest heart-stopping thriller from New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava.

The book finds Maggie and her partner Tully hot on the trail of a serial killer who’s terrorizing the nation’s highways and rest areas, torturing and murdering isolated travelers. As the manhunt continues, however, it becomes increasingly unclear just who’s being hunted, and Maggie finds herself—and the people she cares most about—in the crosshairs of a skilled, sadistic killer.

As always, Maggie cuts a compellingly unconventional figure in Stranded. She’s fearless and unfailingly competent in fulfilling the duties of her job, but when it comes to her personal life, she’s basically the opposite. The dispassionate analysis that makes Maggie such an effective profiler and investigator make it difficult (dare we say entertainingly so) for her to navigate her emotional life. As Kava herself has written, “She’ll chase a killer through a damp, dark tunnel but corner her into talking about relationships and how she feels, and that’s when she starts to squirm.”

Part of what makes us love Maggie is that schism between her cool professional demeanor and flustered off-duty self. It’s a quality that sets her apart from her more cookie-cutter male counterparts in the thriller genre. Kava has written before about the double standards that confront a female detective in modern mysteries: Maggie has to be tough yet feminine. “I gave her certain traits and skills that allowed her to take care of herself,” Kava says. “After all, she needs to get out of tight spots without the cavalry—i.e., male colleagues—coming to the rescue.”

Kava performs a skillful balancing act in writing each new Maggie O’Dell novel. That tightrope walk is every bit as riveting as the mystery at the heart of Stranded, which provides Maggie with what may be her biggest challenge yet.