🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
When pro-life protestor Reverend Jimmy Aldridge is gunned down outside a women’s health clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, Darla Cavannah has to team up with fellow detective and Elvis-impersonator Tommy Reylander, the worst cop in the department. Tommy is strongly pro-life and a member of Rev. Aldridge’s church, and he’s convinced that the clinic’s doctor Stephen Nicoletti is guilty. Darla suspects there may be more to it than that, especially when $3,000 is found in Aldridge’s car – and even more especially when she falls for Dr Nicoletti at first sight.
There’s a lot to like about this book. Darla’s character is well developed – having moved to Jackson with her husband, who’s now dead, she is something of an outsider in this close-knit Southern community, though with some good friends who are able to give her the lowdown on the main suspects. Darla is still coming to terms with the death of her husband who, as a pro-footballer, was a local hero. The plot has several different strands and is complex enough to keep the reader guessing. It’s well written and, although the subject matter is pretty strong, there’s some humour to keep the tone fairly light. The other people in the police department play secondary roles to Darla, but both her boss Shelby and geeky IT specialist Uther are well-drawn and likeable characters.
I feel there are some problems with it however – perhaps because like Darla I’m not part of that community. All the pro-lifers are somewhat caricatured as ignorant rednecks or religious fanatics, while the pro-choice characters are intelligent and likeable, and clearly the ones we are meant to sympathise with. It all feels a bit too clear-cut and simplistic to be realistic, and the lack of nuance mean that what could have been an interesting look at the debate around abortion is somewhat side-stepped. Then there’s Darla’s attraction to Stephen, which simply didn’t ring true to me – it all happens too quickly and there’s no feeling of them getting to know each other.
Otherwise, though, I enjoyed Darla’s character and thought the plotting was strong and interesting. Since it’s billed as ‘A Darla Cavannah Mystery’ I assume it’s to be the first in a series, and on the basis of this one I’d certainly be interested enough to read the next. Recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.