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Kay DiBianca
Lacey's Star
Kay DiBianca, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Publish)

Get in, sit down, buckle up, and hang on!

Private pilot Cassie Deakin lands in the middle of an unwanted adventure when she discovers her beloved Uncle Charlie has been attacked and seriously injured by thieves.

But Cassie has a problem. She doesn't know who she can trust. Still, she's determined to solve the mystery behind the assault on her uncle, so she reluctantly agrees to team up with Deputy Frank White, a man she definitely does not trust, to find the culprits.

But as Cassie and Frank peel back the layers of one mystery, they uncover a deeper and more sinister crime: the murder of an eight-year-old girl decades earlier. Armed with only a single, cryptic clue to the death of young Lacey Alderson, Cassie makes a crucial discovery that lands her in the crosshairs of a murderer.

DiBianca (author of The Watch Mysteries) begins her Lady Pilot-in-Command series with an engaging hero and a twisty, entertaining plot. Cassie Deakin, a private pilot based in rural Nevada, is suddenly thrust into a criminal investigation when her beloved Uncle Charlie is nearly murdered. Cassie soon discovers that Charlie has been hiding a secret box for his old friend Sinclair—and his attackers have taken it. The knife-edge tension sharpens from there, launching Cassie into a fast-moving and complicated investigation that leaves even her own life hanging in the balance.

In true thriller fashion, Cassie doesn’t know whom she can trust, especially once she finds herself embroiled in a fraught partnership with deputy Frank White, a former DEA agent with whom she shares a complex past. The two are joined by a motley team of professional and amateur detectives who traipse through the Southwest, and their own pasts, to uncover a coldhearted murderer who has ties to Sinclair's tragic past and a long-missing runaway.

DiBianca’s plot is tightly woven, but her cast of quirky and lovable characters steals the spotlight. Cassie comes across as both tough and sensitive, while her tentative relationship with Frank is by turns amusing, tender, and always believable, as is her familial connection to Uncle Charlie. Especially well done is Pastor John, Sinclair's religious advisor and a de facto fellow sleuth, with religious insights that lend depth to character and theme without becoming preachy. A secondary romance involving Uncle Charlie—and Cassie's irritation—adds a welcome note of humor. Beyond the stellar characters, DiBianca has a good feel for the novel’s rural setting, dropping readers into small town scenes where unknown faces are rare and social circles are tight knit, before building up to an electric finale that will leave fans eager for Cassie’s next adventure.

Takeaway: An independent woman turns sleuth with the help of her quirky friends in rural Nevada.

Comparable Titles: Sue Grafton, J.A. Jance.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A