Plot/Idea: Gilbert delivers a straightforward mystery with a vivid setting and intriguing setup. The author enhances the storyline through its exploration of the parallels and differences between U.S. and Mexican legal systems, while the story keeps readers guessing the culprit right up until the conclusion.
Prose: The prose is generally even and clear, with some lovely descriptions.
Originality: This storyline feels quite original, as it takes place in a Mexican sauna and spans several countries and languages. The author insightfully explores and exposes systemic undercurrents of homophobia.
Character Development/Execution: Amanda is quite clearly drawn, a complex character with a big conscience. A few of the male characters are also well developed, such as Captain Gonzalez, a gruff Mexican police captain whose prejudices are authentically delved into during the course of the story.
Date Submitted: April 06, 2022
Gilbert (Zona Romantica) does an extraordinary job plumbing the depths of the of the characters surrounding the murder in this second book in the Amanda Pennyworth series. Amanda herself comes across as deeply introspective and, although good at her job, somewhat adrift, missing a recently departed boyfriend. Her only true local connection is with her assistant Nando, and their unusual friendship is delightfully believable. Gilbert has a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, as shown in the heartbreaking exchanges between the parents, who alternate between blaming themselves and each other. Although the plot falters a bit at the end, the well-limned characters will keep the readers glued to the pages until the last paragraph.
Also enlivening the book are the vivid setting descriptions: "there was something dishonest and dissembling about so much order and symmetry." Scenes like that contrast sharply with the cold and brisk conversation Amanda must have with the ambassador, emblematic of the cold officialdom that ignores the afflicted individuals. In an especially affecting scene, the tortured Amanda finally finds solace in ancient artifacts at a museum. Amanda's internal conflict is the true point of interest here– like all good sleuths, Amanda discovers in the end that the real mysteries are inside ourselves.
Takeaway: Haunting characterizations and complex moral questions elevate this richly told border-crossing mystery.
Great for fans of: Alex Gilley, Carmen Amato.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-