I loved the author’s debut work, ‘See You’, regarding it as one of the finest books I’ve read in recent years. So this opener for a new series was a must for me. The author very kindly sent me a copy in advance of release day, so I could be one of the first to read it – thank you very much!
This is a very different book, a thriller built around thirty-something police lieutenant Maggie Redmond, divorced with two children. Maggie’s a very likable, very normal person, doing her job, raising her kids, not exactly struggling to get by but (like most of us) stuck in a bit of a rut. But Maggie has a secret in her past, and when ne’er-do-well Gregory Boudreaux turns up dead in an apparent suicide, her life threatens to unravel. She’s thrown into the path of Gregory’s uncle, the town’s rather charming chief crook. And then there’s the teenage girl ensnared by a local drug dealer, trying to look after his kids and her own baby, whom Maggie takes under her wing.
None of this is particularly unusual, but the background takes it out of the ordinary. Set on the Florida panhandle coast, every page oozes local colour and (even to a Brit like me) southern charm. There were quite a few references I didn’t get, but who could resist a town with a single traffic light, and a grocery story called a Piggly-Wiggly? I could almost small the salty tang of the air, hear the slap of waves against the side of the boat, and feel the sweat trickling between my shoulder blades. Although… oysters? Nah, you can keep the oysters.
The plot develops at a stately, Southern pace most of the time, with much of the tension arising from fabulous, subtext-laden conversations where nothing is said explicitly, but boy, are there undercurrents swirling beneath the surface. But, being a thriller, the pace ramps up dramatically at the end, with far less contrivance than is often found in books of this type. And I liked that no one takes such dramatic events lightly.
If I have a complaint, it’s that many of the characters seemed to be a little too nice to be inhabiting a thriller. Not just Maggie herself, but her normal, well-adjusted kids, her loving parents, and her almost-love-interest, fellow cop Wyatt (especially Wyatt, who can woo me any time). Even her ex-husband, divorced for very sound reasons, comes across in his few appearances as a pleasant, sensible and reliable man. In addition, the two plots are not well connected, so sometimes things seemed a little disjointed.
But overall an absorbing, enjoyable read. This is a great start to the series, with the author’s trademark wonderfully drawn characters, southern charm and plenty of humour. But there’s a darker tone in there as well. This is not the weepy-fest that ‘See You’ was, but I shed a few tears all the same. Looking forward to the rest of the series. A good four stars.