Review: Her Final Breath (Detective Amanda Steele #7) by Carolyn Arnold

Faint sunlight dapples the two figures lying on the ground. The mother cradles her daughter close to her side, a stuffed toy elephant next to them. Leaves from the tall trees fall onto their faces, but neither moves to brush them off.

When a dog walker in a local Virginia park finds the bodies of a mother and daughter, Detective Amanda Steele is first on the scene. Her own daughter has a toy just like the girl’s elephant and seeing the child like this is her worst nightmare come true. Heartbroken, she vows to get justice.

They quickly get an ID—Jill Archer and six-year-old Charlotte were reported missing last week, but interviewing Jill’s husband, Roy, Amanda’s gut tells her he is hiding something. When the autopsy reveals a terrible pattern of bruises, she’s certain that a domestic argument escalated out of control, and tiny Charlotte got caught in the crossfire. But just as Amanda is about to arrest Roy, another grave is found, containing another mother and daughter.

Desperate for a lead, she goes to every place the women could have been targeted, and learns from a concerned ER nurse about Leanne Reilly and her young daughter, Gracie, who haven’t been heard from in a week. Amanda hopes that Leanne has simply left her deadbeat husband, but she’s gripped by the fear that they are the killer’s latest victims. Now every second counts for Amanda to find the family and stop a little girl’s nightmare before it ends in tragedy…


Amanda Steele is another one of my favourite lead detectives. In the past, most of her cases involved a single crime. This is one of her darkest, most complex case yet and it involves a serial killer targeting mothers and daughters. We begin with a mother and daughter in captivity. You can already tell just how terrifying their situation is. The tension further heightens in the first chapter with the discovery of another mother and daughter buried in a shallow grave at a public park. At first, the detectives thought this would be an open and shut case but things didn’t quite work out that way.

This was a difficult case to read about. Although no graphic details are shared, a number of heavy, emotional themes were part of the investigation. Amanda and her partner, Trent, had such a difficult case on their hands. The suspense was high through each chapter and I could feel the pressure that they were under to stop the murders. This added to the urgency in the narrative which had me furiously turning pages in search of answers alongside the detectives.

This is yet another well-written, suspenseful, tightly-plotted installment to the Detective Amanda Steele series. Although this can be read as a standalone, I think you’d enjoy the character development even more if you read the entire series in order.

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