Genre: cozy mystery
Cover: my paperback is more beautiful than this one.
Larry Kirk, Pecan Springs’s computer guru, has been shot dead in his kitchen. At first Sheila believes it to be a suicide, but further investigation reveals that Kirk's death wasn't self-inflicted. And the truth is reinforced by her friend China Bayles' news - Larry recently asked her for legal advice in regards to a stalker.
As a police chief in a male-dominated force, Sheila meets many challenges, especially when her theories rock the boat in high profile cases like that of George Timms, who was caught breaking into Larry's shop. Now that Larry is dead, Sheila is sure the burglary is connected to the murder. But when Timms disappears instead of turning himself in, Sheila must prove she's got what it takes to hunt down a predator who's loose on the streets of Pecan Springs...
This book is not written in the style I have come to love in the China Bayles series. Instead of focusing on China and her private life and her sleuthing on the side, the book focuses on her good friend Sheila, who is the police chief in town. So even though this book has peaks in Sheila’s private life, and a bit in what is happening with China and both their husbands (who are private detectives together), this book reads more like a police mystery. This does not mean that I did not enjoy the book, as I did enjoy it. The author does explain why she choose this new style at the beginning of the book.
The book starts with a gathering of the Texas Star Quilting Club, some old ladies of Pecan Springs, who are experts at gossiping and watching their neighbours. And lately, they have had their eyes on Larry Kirk. He is going through a divorce, as he is a work-a-holic, and his wife has found a new lover. But recently, a lady has been showing up at his house, especially when he is not at home. So what does that mean?
And then Larry Kirk is found murdered. Do those old ladies actually have clues to solve the mystery?
Sheila Dawson is the police chief of Pecan Springs, and she is really trying to make it a modern department, but she is hindered by the budget cuts the city council keeps throwing at her, and especially her second in command, who was hoping for her function when the previous chief was fired. She is not happy in her work, and even doubting her decision to stay as chief and have her new husband Blackie give up his job as sheriff. But they both decided that there can’t be two police officers in one relationship, and they flipped a coin for it. Blackie is happy enough with his new job though, he went into the private investigator business with Mike McQuaid, China Bayles’ husband.
Lucky for Sheila, Deputy Chief Clint Hardin is going on vacation for 10 days, so she can relax a little and perhaps even go out in the field herself. When the call comes in that a dead body has been found, at first it looks like a suicide, and Sheila knows her detective Bartlett can handle that fine by himself. But it is close where she lives, so she will hop over for a quick look. As chief of police, it is important that she is seen out and about, and not only busy with the necessary paper work. But when there is reasonable doubt that this is actually a suicide, Sheila decides to help with the investigation herself, but leaving her Detective in charge of the case.
Is this case combined with the almost closed Timms case? Timms is supposed to hand himself over to the police this afternoon, on the charge of breaking and entering in Larry Kirk’s shop. Timms is one of the most important and influential citizens in Pecan Springs, so this is sure to cause a scandal. Timms claims to have been blackmailed, but so far he has not told anything about the how or why.
Unfortunately, Timms fails to show up, and even his lawyer withdraws from the case. He never liked his client anyway, so Timms is now officially missing.
Of course, when China hears about those new developments, she can’t help herself to investigate a little. McQuaid told her about some kind of bachelor pad’s of Timms not far from their home. She is not sure if Sheila knows about it, so the next morning she decides to go take a look. And there she does not only find a possible reason for Timms supposed blackmail problems, but also Timms himself. And that is not a pretty sight. But Sheila now has two distinct cases on her hands, and she needs all the help and information that China can give her. Still, Sheila is not called Smart Cookie for nothing, and she weaves the clues together to find out the truth and catch the real murderer(s).
I really did enjoy this book, even though I am used to more personal life stuff of China and her friends. Still, all the different threads are nicely woven together into a neat story, with lots of surprises and twists. I like China and her family and friends a lot, and it was nice to read a bit more about Sheila in this episode. I did have my suspicions about the murderer, but it was still a well written mystery.
I do recommend this series, but for the most enjoyment, and to know the main characters, please read in order.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian