A small-town story of murder and blackmail that centers on a young girl.
This sequel to Webber’s (Keepers of the Coffee Pot, 2016) first book begins with the murder of a woman named Pam Rinker. Pam’s husband, John, is immediately suspected despite having a solid alibi. Unable to escape the questions surrounding his wife’s death, he leaves their California home and moves to Huntsville, Texas, to take advantage of a job offer from his brother-in-law, Bob Connaly. This smaller, more intimate town is haunted by the attempted murder some months ago of Maggie Watson, the courageous, precocious young daughter of beauty shop owner Grace. Maggie soon finds herself in trouble again, this time with Velma Ballard, a local woman who’s long been suspected of blackmailing her neighbors. After Velma catches Maggie building a small, illegal fire while playing in a gully, she demands that the girl pay for her crime by helping with chores around her house. However, Grace is wary of Velma’s intentions, and as she suspected, Velma soon asks Maggie to participate in a dangerous blackmail scheme that brings the child back to the site of her attempted murder. This ultimately sets in motion a series of violent and tragic occurrences that circle back to Pam’s unsolved killing. Over the course of the story, Webber craftily weaves together threads involving murder and lesser crimes that unite a wide cast of characters, some of whom blur the line between perpetrator and victim. She creates endearing heroes and detestable villains, with the young Maggie standing out as a shining central figure. That said, some of the writing is clunky and awkward: “Exiting the pathway onto the lawn behind the beauty shop she heard a yelp, then a thud. Oh, my, gosh, whoever it is tripped on the root.” Ultimately, though, Webber constructs an exciting tale whose resolution remains uncertain until the very end.
An often entertaining, fast-moving crime tale featuring a brave and bright child protagonist.