I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
In my opinion, this is the quality of writing cozy mystery writers should strive for.
Because she's cooperated with the Richmond police in the past, Nichelle is owed a favour and it's paid in the form of an exclusive on a gruesome murder scene - with a request attached: the 911 call came from two homeless people who won't talk to the cops and her police contact is hoping she'll be able to coax their stories from them. Her efforts, coupled with the inability of the police to identify the victim, pulls her into the story and leads her to some pretty unexpected places.
First - this isn't your grandmother's cozy. It isn't gruesome, in spite of the opening scene, but there is language and the theme is more sophisticated than the bog standard "that old biddy deserved it!". No actual sex scenes either, although the author does an outstanding job speeding up a reader's pulse rate when Nichelle finally decides to fish-or-cut-bait.
Second - and I can't emphasise this enough - Nichelle is an investigative reporter whose job is to interview and question people and she still manages to investigate this mystery without resorting to sledgehammer tactics. She researches, she digs around, and when she does interview people she does so with empathy and intelligence. Writing like this just makes those other cozy MC's using bull-in-a-china-shop methods look all the worse in comparison.
Nichelle and all the characters in this series are the kind of people you'd be likely to find living in your neighborhood, or working in your office. Even the office witch, Shelby, gets a bit more dimension in this book (in previous books she was around merely for the smack-down entertainment value of watching her and Nichelle have at it).
Finally - the mystery itself. Complicated. Maybe too complicated, but I think it worked. What I loved best about it is the way the author used a not-unpopular plot setting but didn't lead us or Nichelle down the obvious path. It was interesting, and not impossible for such a scenario to exist in reality. The resolution also sets up the possibility of some interesting conflicts for Nichelle in future books.
Why not five stars? There's a love triangle. It's been there since the beginning, so the author scores points for not screwing with an existing relationship, but it's still a love triangle and both men have their allure. I believe it's been settled in this book, but there's enough question at the end to make me wonder if the decision is somewhat temporary. I also would have liked to have known what happened to some of the secondary characters, like Elaine. It's a small thing though and didn't make me feel like the story ended incomplete.
This series shot up my list of favorites almost from the start, and I wasn't at all disappointed in this one. Ms. Walker is an excellent story teller and writer and kudos go to the team at Henery Press for consistently putting out great mysteries with highly professional editing.
[PopSugar 2015 Challenge: A book with a love triangle.]