In Ferrendelli’s debut mystery, a reporter desperate to solve her sister’s murder must face demons of her own.
Samantha Church didn’t quit her nearly decadelong career reporting for the Denver Post; she was fired due to the basic, yet persistent, mistakes in her articles. She knows she’s a damn good reporter, so her firing came as a shock, but an even bigger surprise was the accusation that she’s an alcoholic. Sure, she likes to have a drink now and then, but does that really matter? Sam won’t admit that her problem has caused her to lose custody of her daughter and also to miss her sister’s important phone call—her last communication before falling to her death from an apartment balcony. Convinced her sister would never commit suicide, Sam searches for her killer, following a trail of corruption involving drug cartels and some of the highest ranking members of a police department outside Denver. But as Sam tries to find justice for others, she realizes she needs rescuing as well. Struggling with personal demons, weight problems and alcoholism, Sam is a carefully crafted, realistically flawed character. Her mistakes and missteps have a humanizing effect, and though she may be exasperating at times, most readers will find themselves steadfastly in her corner. Secondary characters are similarly complex, with no lack of personal weaknesses, complementing the already tangible sense of humanity. The plot slows, understandably, during Sam’s alcoholic blackouts and moments of depression and accelerates accordingly in her times of clarity. Ferrendelli deftly avoids formulaic resolutions with outcomes that are nuanced and often unexpected. Some readers may feel that Sam’s occasionally lengthy moments of introspection lag compared to the rest of the story, and peculiar imagery—as when Sam remembers holding her daughter and feeling “her young tender bones as soft and as fragile and limber as cooked spaghetti noodles”—detracts from otherwise authentic, thoughtful prose. Minor issues aside, Ferrendelli’s debut will leave many readers hoping for more from this vulnerable, highly sympathetic heroine.
A smart, nimble treat of a mystery that provides ample foundation for growth.