No Good Deed

Ten years or so ago I was dating this nice fellow and he came over to my house and handed me a book by Lynn S. Hightower called Flashpoint. "Read this," he says. "The heroine is a lot like you." "Is she?" I ask, not sure if I should be offended or flattered. He waves a negligent hand. "Yeah, she's a single mom, she worries about her kids and she has a dog just like Polly that's always peeing on the floor." This did sound interesting. I'd read a few too many mysteries where we don't get to know much about the detective in charge of the case beyond the fact that it takes him yanno, five or six hundred pages to catch the bad guy, who may or may not be his partner. I'd certainly never read about a detective whose dog has the same bladder problem as my decrepit old terrier/poodle mix so I did what my mother always advised and decided to read the first chapter. I didn't need the entire chapter to decide I was going to read the whole book.

Flashpoint is about Cincinnati detective Sonora Blair, the previously mentioned stressed out single mom, and her investigation of a gruesome series of murders committed by a woman who kills by fire. The book was both thrilling and chilling and what I particularly liked was the chatty style of dialogue and the glimpses into how difficult it is to be a homicide detective pulled from your bed at all hours to go to crime scenes when you don’t have a spouse to take care of the kids. Unfortunately Flashpoint is no longer in print but you may be able to find a copy at your library or a used bookstore.

The library is where I finally managed to find another Sonora Blair mystery, this one called No Good Deed. I'd been trying to remember the name of the author of Flashpoint for a long time (I couldn't recall either the title or the author, making it a little bit hard to locate) so when I saw No Good Deed I snatched it off the shelf and read the first few pages. It starts at a horse farm where Sonora has been called to investigate a disappearance. A teenage girl and the horse she was riding are both gone, there's a break in the fence and there's tire tracks and blood, but no body. Time is critical. Each moment that goes by lessons their chance of finding the missing girl alive.

When Sonora directs the search of a nearby farmhouse she says something that makes everything crystal clear for the reader. "…don't take an axe to the place, you got me? But you make sure that there is no chance that a fifteen-year old girl is in there listening to you walk through the halls, praying that you'll have the imagination to open the right door or check under the cellar stairs." And suddenly you can see Joelle, the girl, hear her heartbeat, see her scared eyes and you're hooked. You have to find out what happens next.

Sonora's search for the truth follows a bizarre and twisting trail. Someone breaks into the house and cuts off one of the fingers of the woman who runs the horse farm where Joelle vanished. There appears to be some sort of scam involved with valuable horses and the boarding farm where the owners are charged a fortune and the horses are neglected. But how does this fit in with a missing girl, a missing horse and a missing finger?

When Sonora searches the girl's room she finds hidden stashes of information about missing children and a diary that seems to indicate that Joelle thinks she and her sisters are missing. Could there be any truth to this or this the normal sort of yearning that a teenage girl does, wishing her true family would come along and take her away and treat her as the princess she really is?

Sonora thinks the father is the culprit but her fellow detectives don't agree, calling him too "squishy" and saying he obviously loves his girls too much to hurt them. Her partner and the other cops say they think it was "Stranger Danger," in other words a man Joelle didn't know who captured her and likely killed her.

Sonora and an undercover federal agent end up chasing clues all over, eventually ending up at a horse auction where the suspect has sold the horse trailer and the horse that Joelle was riding when she vanished. Here Sonora is tempted to buy a horse at auction because she feels bad for all the horses for sale. I haven't found many mysteries that take place in the horse world that work for me but this one did, quite nicely. The only really jarring note was a bizarre typo throughout the book; the word frieze instead of freeze when talking about branding. Otherwise it was spot on, especially the part at the auction where Sonora, who is new to horses, wants to take one home, despite having no place to put it and barely being able to make ends meet as it is. But the kids will love it right?

This book is a nice mix of mystery, super mom wannabe angst and ponies. Now that I remember the author's name I'll be looking for the rest of her books. You can read an excerpt here.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from The Yellow Donut Man who is reviewing the new Simpsons movie, saying, "A great movie that is extremely funny. Somehow they found a way to squeeze every Simpsons character into the movie. I had trouble hearing the actors sometimes because the audience was laughing so hard." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.