Despite plot pieces that fit together a little too snugly, Sandlin blends pathos, humor, and poetic prose in a strong debut.

THE DO-RIGHT

A former oilman and a determined parolee form a detective team in Texas’ bayou country.

Delpha Wade is conscientiously following her parole officer’s rules for finding a place to live and a job: act as polite as possible and ask for what she needs. This double-A advice lands her a room in the New Rosemont Hotel in exchange for looking after the owner’s ancient aunt and a day job as secretary for Tom Phelan’s brand-new detective agency. She does more than ask for the job: she greets the first customer, who's been drawn in by an ad in the Beaumont Enterprise, and starts acting like Tom’s secretary before he’s even agreed to hire her. Tom, who recently lost part of a finger on an oil rig, wants to keep the remaining nine digits and has put all his workers’ comp into this new business. But Delpha’s 14 years for voluntary manslaughter at the Gatesville Women’s Prison, known locally as the Do-Right, taught her more than bookkeeping and typing. She learned more about what got her there in the first place for killing one of two men who were raping her—the will to survive. Now she’s just what Tom needs to nudge him into taking the case of a missing boy and help with the stakeout of a cheating husband, the recovery of a missing artificial leg, and the mystery of a possibly poisoned dog. In her off hours, Delpha helps her landlady seek a mysterious Tiffany item and starts a love affair with a Princeton dropout. While the Watergate hearings blare in the background and Beaumont’s colorful citizenry discusses them and every other topic large and small, Tom’s admiration for Delpha grows, along with his unease about the adulterous husband and the only temporarily missing boy. But in his blossoming detective zeal to dig more deeply into the cases, he doesn’t realize how much he’s endangering his able sidekick.

Despite plot pieces that fit together a little too snugly, Sandlin blends pathos, humor, and poetic prose in a strong debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941026-19-9

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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You can’t help but chuckle over all the disasters, but in the end the heroine catches her prey.

DRESSED UP 4 MURDER

An Arizona accountant with a penchant for solving murders lands a fishy case.

Sophie "Phee" Kimball might lead a dull life if it weren’t for her mother, Harriet Plunkett, and Harriet’s neurotic Chiweenie, Streetman. As it is, Harriet lives near her daughter in Sun City West and has a wide circle of zany friends who’ve helped Phee solve several mysteries (Molded 4 Murder, 2019, etc.) while she’s been working for Williams Investigations along with her boyfriend, Marshall, a former police officer. While Phee’s visiting Harriet one day, Streetman dashes over to the neighbors’ barbecue grill and unearths a dead body under a tarp. As usual, the overwhelmed local police ask Williams Investigations to help—er, consult. Harriet’s main concern is getting costumes made for the reluctant Streetman, whom she’s entered in a series of contests starting with Halloween and progressing through Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hannukah, and St. Patrick’s Day. One of her friends is an accomplished seamstress who goes all out making gorgeous costumes that will beat an obnoxious lady who looks down on mutts. The dead man is identified as Cameron Tully, a seafood distributor, who was poisoned by the locally ubiquitous sago pine. At the first dog contest, Elaine Meschow has to be rushed to the hospital after she gets a dose of the same thing. The owner of a gourmet dog food company, Elaine is lucky enough to recover. After Streetman takes second place, Harriet’s team redoubles its efforts for the next contest while Phee and Marshall, who are moving into a new place together, continue to hunt for clues. A restaurant holdup and a scheme to use empty houses for hookups for high school kids add to the confusion.

You can’t help but chuckle over all the disasters, but in the end the heroine catches her prey.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-2455-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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