Red Ochre Falls by Kristen Gibson

Red Ochre Falls

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In Gibson’s debut thriller, a young woman tries to prove that her friend’s suicide was murder and stumbles onto a conspiracy.

College student Mattie Harper and her mother, Nora, must abandon their beloved house after Nora’s heart attack forces her to leave her high-stress job. They both find work fielding after-hours calls at Mackenzie Funeral Home, and they rent an apartment just above its viewing room. It’s a momentous change for Mattie, but it doesn’t seem quite so bad after she meets the handsome, blue-eyed Garrett Mackenzie, the funeral home’s owner. Unfortunately, bad news soon follows: her college roommate, Chloe Ellis, is found dead, an apparent suicide. Mattie and Chloe had a falling out after Chloe refused to leave her abusive boyfriend, Tab; more recently, the two women had planned on meeting to discuss one of Chloe’s legal cases. Mattie is convinced that Chloe didn’t kill herself, and she gets support from Garrett, who spots possible signs of murder on Chloe’s body, which should have been caught by the pathologist (Garrett’s ex-girlfirend Tess). Mattie and Garrett smell a cover-up, and they’re evidently on the right track, as thugs keep threatening Mattie over the phone and in person. With help from Garrett’s cop pal, Calvin Bateman, the two look into Chloe’s case involving a land deal, which may lead them to a murderer. Gibson’s novel is equal parts mystery and romance. The muscular Garrett is charming, considerate, and perhaps a little too flawless to be believed. But his developing relationship with Mattie is engrossing and filled with obstacles. Mattie’s sleuthing, though, relies primarily on other people giving her key information, such as Chloe’s co-worker Tom Clark, who shows up at Chloe’s funeral to give Mattie both intel and a key. Mattie’s dedication, however, makes her a laudable protagonist, and although military-trained Garrett gives her a couple of Krav Maga lessons, she’s a practical fighter; at one point, for example, she uses an umbrella to fend off an assailant. Gibson also adds an impressive number of villains to the story, so that the ending isn’t so easy to piece together.

A good combination of romantic entanglement and shrewd investigation.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9909058-0-6
Page count: 294pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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