April 6, 2019
In, A Convenient Death, by Laurel Heidtman, Detectives Jo Valentine and “Sticks” Mullins are investigating a double-murder that occurred at a convenience store (hence the title). The pretty and promiscuous young store clerk and a senior-citizen patron are shot execution-style in the back room of the quickie-mart. Was this a robbery that went bad, or did somebody target the store clerk for murder? Or was it the customer who was the target? Was the trigger pulled by the small-time thugs who stole the money from the register and the cigarettes from behind the counter, or was it the clerk’s jilted husband, or one of the clerk’s many sexual partners? Was it the wife of one of those lovers? Or was it some other mysterious person who wanted the customer dead? The detectives pursue all the possible leads, even as the list of possible suspects continues to grow rather than shrink as the investigation continues. Add in a twist involving the FBI and some late-arriving information about a local drug dealer and a DNA test, and poor Jo can barely keep all the suspects straight. There are no shortage of plot twists and leads to follow, and the reader can guess along with the detectives about who the real killer(s) might be. But, you probably won’t guess.
This is a well-written book and a well-constructed story that keeps the reader’s interest from start to finish. There’s plenty of action and suspense and nothing is predictable or obvious. In fact, the ending is quite a surprise. It’s a page-turner that you’ll want to rush through to find out what happens.
There are a few copy editing and language issues sprinkled around the text, but nothing that is distracting or annoying. In the early chapters, the author throws a lot of characters and names at us, which can be hard to sort out at first, but as the story continues any initial confusion eventually works itself out. At times the author indulges a little too much in the inner-thought narrative of two of the female characters, including their insecurities and emotional reactions. The character of Ann, in particular, is featured in several long scenes that could be trimmed from the book. And some readers may not want to know so much about Jo’s complicated relationship with Dan, her boyfriend and a cop from a neighboring town. There’s some backstory about Jo’s breakup with her husband, and her relationship with her college-age daughter, but those subplots seemed often peripheral to the main story and at times somewhat distracting. But, we do get to know Jo in many different aspects of her life, and in that regard the author gives us a very well-rounded description of Jo and her many issues.
The rest of the characters are described with varying degrees of detail, but even the suspects have some depth and unique personality traits. Criticism of individual characters and their role in the story are minor nit-picking at what is a truly enjoyable narrative. Fans of female detectives in particular will find Jo and her orbit of friends and colleagues fascinating and engaging. The many plot threads can be hard to keep track of, but ultimately any sense of confusion the reader feels is parallel to the confusion of the lead detectives. As the story careens toward conclusion things happen very quickly and some of the plot points start to stray from the very realistic story-telling of the first three-quarters of the book, but the surprises and reveals are certainly entertaining and end up tying all the loose ends together.
This is a fun read that I can recommend highly. Go read this book!