Stella Reynolds investigates a pair of murders in this latest installment of Kirsch’s (The Big Interview, 2016, etc.) chick-lit mystery series.
Book 3 finds the intrepid reporter and amateur detective on the trail of a major drug ring in Knoxville, Tennessee. Stella has moved up the journalism food chain, enjoying a good job in a larger market. She doesn’t have to carry her own TV equipment, and she is far more comfortable with those tricky live shots. Outside of work, Stella is living with her old friend Janet Black, across town from ex-boyfriend John, and still considering her options with former flame and NASCAR driver Lucky Haskins. When Stella covers an overnight shift that morphs from a house fire to a murder, she soon finds herself on a complicated and dangerous case. Two homicides in one night appear to be connected, and the suspect who’s in jail may not be the guilty party. An anonymous tipster pushes Stella to look deeper at the killings, and it becomes apparent that Knoxville’s low crime rates are an illusion. Widespread drug and gang problems lie just below the surface, and government officials, detectives, and leading business owners are all on the take. Kirsch’s third Stella Reynolds mystery still feels fresh and fun. Though the narrative follows a predictable format—what seems to be a straightforward crime is a coverup with larger ramifications—it is still enjoyable to watch the mystery unravel. Kirsch’s leading lady remains a funny and relatable heroine. Her plucky attitude and aptitude for stumbling into sticky situations are pleasantly reminiscent of Janet Evanovich’s popular Stephanie Plum character. Roommate Janet provides an amusing, if somewhat clichéd, tough-nut foil to Stella’s optimism and do-gooder spirit. Stella’s love life is relevant but on the periphery, allowing the focus to remain on the case. One of the strongest facets of Kirsch’s series is her insider knowledge of journalism and TV reporting, which lends a feeling of authenticity to the plot and puts a unique spin on the cozy mystery genre.
A light and amusing whodunit that proves time spent in the company of the heroine is time well spent indeed.