HOT WATER by J.J.  Shelley


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A Massachusetts woman determined to learn why her husband suddenly left his family destitute uncovers a wealth of secrets and deception in this debut thriller.

Sylvie Wolff is content with her worry-free, prosperous life, as her breadwinner husband, Mark, handles all the finances. She’s understandably baffled when, while Mark is away on a business trip, money becomes a serious problem. She faces denied credit cards, a depleted bank account, and a house in foreclosure. After moving with her daughters, Diana and Claire, to a student apartment that the family still owns in Cambridge, Sylvie searches for Mark, who’s ignoring calls and texts. Finding him gives rise to more questions: There’s another woman, but that doesn’t clarify why Mark left his wife and kids as well as his job without explanation. Sylvie teams up with private investigator Raul and discovers Mark has likely used the Wolffs’ money to start his own business, though she knows little about it. Further snooping may be incensing someone, as Sylvie is shaken by a stranger in a ski mask. Mark complicates matters by trying to sell the Cambridge apartment and garner custody of their daughters. Exposing his furtive business could mean financial stability for Sylvie—or potential danger from a greedy and unsavory individual. While readers won’t immediately sympathize with Sylvie, who misses her “lush garden and private driveway,” she gradually becomes self-reliant in Shelley’s story. Sylvie, for example, pays for Raul’s services by helping out with another case of his and occasionally sleuthing alone. Her scenes with Raul shine: The curt private eye brings out her snarkiness, a welcome relief from what Sylvie herself deems “her own pity party.” Tension, meanwhile, mounts even without the protagonist in peril: Dashing neighbor Jack Ramsdale wants her apartment so he can own the entire building, adding uncertainty to Sylvie’s situation. Claire is a standout; she rarely complains, scores a job (she’s only 11 years old), and hilariously mocks Diana for her “white girl problems.” They’re indelible traits she surely inherited from a strong mother and not a crass, workaholic father.

A subdued but gripping detective tale with radiant characters.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2018
Page count: 321pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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