A fledgling detective agency’s assignment to investigate a cheating husband uncovers betrayals beyond adultery.
Grapevine Investigations confirms the infidelity quickly at the Coral Court Motel, which soon winds up with more people spying from the bushes than cavorting behind closed doors. Grapevine’s investigators aren’t the only people interested in the activities at this hot-sheets motel that caters to surgeons and hookers alike. But when Coral Court’s clients and staff begin getting murdered, the private investigation collides with a criminal one that eventually finds that sex might be a great motivator, but it wasn’t the motive in this case. Although the action is fast-paced, Applewhite (Crazy for You, 2010, etc.) is at her best when she focuses on her characters instead of on plot devices that sometimes strain credulity (i.e.; a televised soap opera that almost exactly mirrors the action in the main narrative). Many of the characters are compelling as they struggle against what is perhaps the most insidious form of deception—self-deception; the belief that one drink won’t hurt, that a married lover will commit, that the right hairstyle can reverse time. However, some of the secondary characters are little more than prepackaged stereotypes, such as a caregiver who is overweight and therefore also lazy and slovenly. Applewhite isn’t afraid to stretch the boundaries of noir fiction, as when she saddles a glamorous adulteress with the daily care of two young children. These kinds of odd juxtapositions add interest and depth, even if they occasionally fall flat (a wealthy doctor drinking expensive cognac from a crystal decanter in a $25 hotel room). There are times when the book seems to neglect opportunities for humor and drama; a mishap at the Coral Court Motel in which a cheating husband and his cheating wife are accidentally sent to the same room goes nowhere. The ending feels similarly rushed, with the murderer and his motive presented in just a few unsatisfying paragraphs that leave many loose threads hanging.
An uneven but overall enjoyable read.