Readers will be drawn to Peri’s spunky personality and independence; she refuses to hide behind her affectionate, protective fiancé, police detective Skip Carlton, even when flashbacks double the stress of car chases and shoot-outs. Along for the ride is her quasi-assistant, Benny Needles, an autistic Dean Martin aficionado who proves to be indispensable during the story’s climax. The interactions between Peri and Benny are heartfelt as well as humorous, though Peri’s well-meaning neurotypical perspective can grate. (“Sometimes I get to the end of my rope with him, then I remember that he’s trying to process things the only way he knows how.”) In contrast, Dev’s relationship with Peri is one-note, and the reasons for their estrangement are unclear.
It’s fairly easy to spot the killer, but readers will appreciate Carline’s effective cliff-hangers and her ability to build truly creepy scenes, especially when Peri unearths sinister secrets in a prime suspect’s home. Carline also puts considerable effort into her depictions of PTSD, OCD, and autism. This is a satisfying mystery that will leave readers eager for Peri’s next investigation.
Takeaway: This entertaining mystery is perfect for readers who appreciate a funny and courageous heroine.
Great for fans of Anne George’s Southern Sisters series, Sue Grafton.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-