It isn’t that Emma Howe truly regrets her decision to add Billie August to the staff of Howe Investigations (Time and Trouble, 1998); it’s just that every now and then Billie makes her nervous. She’s a little too good-looking, a little too sensitive, Emma thinks, to make it in the hardscrabble world of professional snooping—a little too unlike her boss. At a cursory glance they do seem ill-matched: broad-shouldered, broad-beamed warhorse Emma, 55, and sleek, understated thoroughbred Billie, 26. Still, confront them with a complex crime, and it’s amazing to see how alike their reactions are. Suddenly, Howe Investigations has two juicy bits on its plate: the mystery of a long-hidden identity, a case involving murder and a prime collection of secrets and lies; and the grisly death of a young woman, allegedly at the hands of their mentally-challenged client. Clues are scarce in both cases, which will be resolved only by toughing it out with stubborn resolution. Bullheaded Emma cracks one, doggedly determined Billie the other. And in the process, this sleuthing odd couple comes to experience a closer sisterhood than they’ve ever felt before.
Well-written, tightly plotted, a successful second entry. The byplay between Emma, the Dragon Lady, and not-so-silly Billie continues refreshingly believable and unfailingly lively. Roberts, author of the feather-light Amanda Pepper series, is on to something more substantial with Howe and August.