Take a Number by Janet Dawson

7th April 2021.

When Jeri Howard becomes involved in a divorce case, she takes on more than finding the missing $100,000 dollars that Sam has hidden from his wife. He’s a nasty piece of work with a history of brutalising women. Yet on the surface, he’s charming and credible, drawing women to him with consummate ease.

When he’s murdered, Jeri’s job changes to investigator as his wife, Ruth, becomes the prime suspect. It doesn’t take much digging for Jeri to find plenty more suspects, leading to a classic private eye murder mystery tale.

Jeri’s a determined investigator who’s not afraid to speak her mind and ruffle feathers. She burns a lot of shoe leather in this investigation, which becomes more complex by the chapter. While the descriptions of places and journeys often slow the place, the story’s never dull as Jeri’s an engaging character and the plot twists keep you guessing right to the end.


Oakland P.I. Jeri Howard dives right into the middle of a brutal womanizer’s divorce proceedings—and murder mystery—in the third instalment of Janet Dawson’s compelling female detective series. And in this particular whodunit, the list of who would gladly have done it just keeps growing.

When Ruth Raynor—the mousy soon-to-be ex-wife of an abusive sailor—calls up Jeri Howard to take on her divorce case, Jeri has reservations. For one, the celebrated Bay area PI has never been a fan of petty divorce investigations. Plus Ruth’s sleek divorce attorney—isn’t exactly Jeri’s cup of tea. But Ruth just happens to be the daughter of a former client. And Jeri is as loyal as she’s bold.

Sam, the soon-to-be ex-husband is a smart, slick, cocky piece of work—and a mean drunk to boot—who basks in attention (especially from women) like a lizard on a rock. Sam at first comes across as dangerously attractive, except for his pale blue, emotionless eyes—a cold, dead giveaway. Turns out Prince Charming broke his wife’s wrist, gave her a black eye, kept their small daughter hungry and in rags—and hid $100,000 when Ruth filed for divorce.

When Sam winds up with a bullet in his back, the prime suspect, naturally, is Ruth. But Jeri, working hard to keep her client out of jail, discovers a line of suspects so long someone who wanted to kill him would have to take a number and get in line.

Take a Number

Kindred Crimes by Janet Dawson

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.



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.

Kindred Crimes by Janet Dawson