30th December 2020.
This is the first novel in the Jeri Howard private investigator series, set in California. Like many of its contemporaries, the story’s told by Jeri in a direct, no nonsense manner. She’s a streetwise investigator with high principles and a determination to see a job through, even when the client decides he no longer requires her services.
Missing wife, Renee Foster, turns out to be anything but the person her anxious husband portrays. As Jeri digs deeper, encountering more than her fair share of obstacles and challenges, she peels away the layers to reveal family secrets no one wants to share. There’s Mark, the brother, who shot their parents and served fifteen years for the crime. He’s out and building a new life for himself, determined not to return to past events. Sister Karen, employed in the skin trade, knows more than she’s willing to tell.
Then there’s the husband’s family, who never liked Renee to start with.
And Jeri’s former husband, a cynical copper who still holds a torch for her, can’t help but make life difficult for her, especially when people start dying.
How Jeri makes sense of it all and overcomes the odds makes for a fascinating and entertaining story that’s full of surprises, humour and touching moments that all build to a slick climax and resolution. The characters are sharply drawn and realistic, vulnerable and flawed, but always interesting.
I’m delighted to have discovered this author and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys private eye stories by authors like Sue Grafton and Cheryl Bradshaw.
THE PORN STAR, THE MURDERER, AND THE DISAPPEARING WIFE…
Those are just a few of the family members Oakland P.I. Jeri Howard finds herself investigating in a puzzling missing persons case that sprawls throughout the grittier sections of Northern California. For a woman who told her husband she had no relatives, Renee Foster’s actually well-stocked with them….and doozies at that. The whole family—criminals, abusers, and kindly aunts alike– comes alive in Janet Dawson’s first novel, prompting the New York Times to hail it as “a welcome addition to this tough genre.”
There’s clearly a lot more here than the simple matter of a wife disappearing with the grocery money. Smelling a rat or two right from the beginning of this complex and intriguing mystery, the red-haired private detective follows many a twisty trail as Dawson weaves an equally twisty tale, which, to the reader’s delight, just keeps winding back on itself, revealing brand new secrets as fast as ancient skeletons can fall out of closets.
Dawson’s Oakland is damp and properly sinister and Jeri’s as savvy as Sam Spade, with something of Spade’s seen-it-all outlook. What she doesn’t know, her chic lawyer pal, Cassie, can supply; and her cop ex-husband’s on hand to make trouble.