Murders, intrigue, and a host of eccentric, homespun characters keep this debut mystery novel fizzing.
The first book in Hester’s mystery series picks up just eight months into Jonas Lauer’s first year as newly appointed sheriff of Monroe County, Tenn., after an unorthodox election and his official badge being lost. But soon, Lauer, a former forensic investigator, finds himself embroiled in a murder case involving Bill Hays, the misled, recently retired, 20-year veteran sheriff who shot his philandering wife and her lover in cold blood. Adding to that, Chad Wilson, the troublemaking son of Monroe County’s mayor, is arrested in his truck after tearing up downtown storefronts while drunk and stoned with Shelby Lincoln, daughter of the town’s bail bondsman. The ensuing emotionally charged investigation puts Lauer in the cross hairs of the attorney general’s liaison, Lydia Corbett—who ends up smitten with the handsome new sheriff—and a high school full of students eager to smoke the potent marijuana from an illegal farm in the area. When the Wilson boy turns up dead on his front porch and it looks to be some sort of bizarre setup, Lauer is entrusted to put the puzzle pieces together—a tall order. He runs interference for a deputy who has a loose tongue, carefully interacts with a perpetually stoned preacher, and keeps the townsfolk from being swept up in a flurry of local politics and seedy gossip. But Hester infuses his hero with an affable demeanor and a talent for brisk forensic spadework, as the truth behind the murders is rousingly revealed and a marijuana and narcotics drug trafficking operation and its surprising kingpin are implicated. Sheriff Lauer comes into his new role as smoothly as this novel flows to its satisfying conclusion.
A fun, breezy and harmless mystery novel chock full of moxie.