DESPERATE TIMES, DESPERATE PLEASURES by Jan O'Hara

DESPERATE TIMES, DESPERATE PLEASURES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young woman conducts an amateur investigation of a charismatic but criminal pastor in this light mystery. 

Twenty-six-year-old Mia Gibson discovers that her 16-year-old half-sister, Tabitha Gibson Foster Fritz, is in a bind. She was manipulated into giving a $20,000 necklace—a family heirloom—to the head of her Charleston, South Carolina, church, Pastor Veras, and she wants help recovering it before her parents find out. Mia will distract Jackson, a guard with apparent “low mental acuity,” while Tabitha recovers the necklace from the church grounds. However, it turns out that Jackson has lots of sex appeal, so Mia’s gambit unexpectedly turns into a steamy encounter. However, she suspects that Veras is involved in more nefarious activity, so she decides to conduct her own covert investigation. She uses a prosthetic to disguise herself as a pregnant woman and scores a position at Veras’ megachurch, First Faith. Then she discovers that Jackson is actually an undercover cop who was trying to uncover Veras’ shady operation, which complicates matters. Veras blamed Jackson for Mia and Tabitha’s successful heist and fired him, which earned Jackson a demotion. Soon Jackson and Mia join forces to expose Veras’ criminal activity and exploitation of women. Over the course of this novel, O’Hara (Opposite of Frozen, 2016, etc.) delivers a tale of remarkably implausible undercover operations. That said, the shenanigans are lots of fun, and the overall lack of realism doesn’t diminish the sheer enjoyment that they deliver. Throughout, she skillfully braids lighthearted moments with instances of serious drama. That said, O’Hara’s prose can be peculiarly overdone at times; for example, one character employs such insults as “Mephistophelian fiend,” “sulfurous fiend,” and “leprous nutsack.” Overall, though, this book is a delightfully silly and unpretentious ride.

A sweet and enjoyable comic drama.

Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Tartitude Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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