This book could be read as a stand alone novel as it is not entirely necessary to read the previous three in the series to understand what is occurring in this book or Rachel as a character. Yes, the relationships within the book are established in the previous three books Guilt by Association, Guilt by Degrees and Killer Ambition, however, by not reading them does not hinder this book. That said I would recommend the previous books especially Guilt by Association (which I thought was a fantastic start to this series).
Marcia Clark is back with the newest installment of her Rachel Knight series just in time to let you know that there is no place where you can be safe:
Rachel Knight receives a call that no DA wants, there has been a school shooting and there are major casualties but the killers have been identified and both are dead. As Rachel and Bailey start to interview the witnesses and other student, some things don't add up and they begin to wonder if the killer really are dead. What they don't know is the the competition has begun and there is nothing scarier that killers who want to be the best and beat the score of those who came before them.
I know I criticized the last Rachel Knight book for not having enough time in the courtroom, well this one has even less time. For me this is what stood out for me in Clark's previous books in this series was the integration of the investigation and the courtroom. I miss the courtroom aspects in these books and I think this book could have been something more if Clark had decided to include them. I personally think that there are so many authors out there that write in the mystery/thriller genre that you want to do something different to stand out and this is the courtroom for Clark. She knows how the courtroom works and this is where Rachel really shines. In the investigation part she really is second fiddle to Bailey (which makes sense as she is the detective), however, the point of view of the story is from Rachel so we get a lot of Bailey already thinking and doing something before Rachel even suggests it. This in turn overshadows Rachel and her character, and I will say again she is the main character. I just feel overall the Rachel I loved in the beginning of this series has become lost along the way.
All of that said, this is still a really good and interesting read and I loved the topic and premise that Clark decided to focus on, school shooting and the competition aspect. I think that this is an under used topic in books recently but I think the next school involved aspect will be something to do with the Creepy Clowns (such a weird trend). Clark did a really good job in hiding and changing you idea of who the second shooter is and I will say that she kept me guessing right till the end.
I personally think there is a lack of really great courtroom procedural books out there with a character like Rachel Knight and I hope that Clark in the future has Rachel return to the courtroom. This book is still good without it, but there are so many books out there with a "crime fighting duo" that I wanted more from what I originally liked from this series. I will read the next book in the series just to see where Clark takes it next, guess it really isn't a must read for me know though.