Verdict: While the book could stand to be about three-quarters, maybe even two-thirds of its current size, it remains a lively and adventurous romp through the seedier aspects of true crime.
Kevin Ryan is a true-crime writer struggling to make his big break. His editor rejected his last effort on the grounds that it wasn’t outrageous enough, and his sales figures are flatlining. On top of that, his number-one fan (or, as his wife would have it, his creepy stalker) has been found dead, apparently of heatstroke.
But then he’s visited by a young woman, Jett Carter, who pleads with him to help her mother and sister, in jail for inciting the attempted murder of one of her sister’s boyfriends by another, and for attempting to hire a hit man to kill her sister’s former husband. Kevin eagerly begins tracking down the story, but along with the usual angry and uncooperative witnesses and seedy personalities, something darker is lurking, something that might even get him framed for murder or put his beloved wife and daughters in danger. Will Kevin track down the real story in time to save the family finances – and his family?
This is an intricate and well-developed mystery, with surprising plot twists and an entertaining cast of characters. Kevin is an appealingly befuddled lead, whose innocent blundering manages to keep important clues subtly concealed and preserves the reader’s suspense. The initial light-heartedness of the story yields inexorably to a darker and more frightening mystery, and the reader is carried along with it until the dramatic final resolution. The story adeptly blends humor and suspense, leavening its darker moments with dry wit.
The story could benefit in places from a bit of trimming – the author tends to get caught up in providing every last detail of a scene or event, and it occasionally bogs down the story to some extent. The humor can also be unkind in places, even sometimes a bit mean-spirited, which makes Kevin somewhat less sympathetic than he otherwise might have been. The author is occasionally less subtle than he ought to be, as well, particularly with respect to Kevin’s interactions with the person who turns out to be the villain, considered in light of Kevin’s general perceptiveness and ability to evaluate character.
While the book could stand to be about three-quarters, maybe even two-thirds of its current size, it remains a lively and adventurous romp through the seedier aspects of true crime.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader