In Lewis’ debut mystery, a man hires a detective agency to discover if his wife is cheating, but she disappears just as the investigation begins.
Samantha “Sam” Carter recently moved back to Ohio, and she’s learning the detective trade from her brother Paul. He owns Carter Consultants, an agency carved out of the front two rooms of their Nana’s former Cleveland bungalow. The siblings learn that client Jerome Pentley suspects his wife, Tracy, of trysting at home each Monday afternoon with the driver of a dark blue Mercedes. Sam, who knew Tracy years earlier, aims to photograph her old friend’s Monday visitor. During the stakeout, Sam sneaks around the back of the Pentley property, where she has a rough run-in with another PI. He’s her long-lost love, hazel-eyed Johnny Rosato, hired by Tracy to investigate Jerome, whose first wife died suspiciously. Just as the sleuths realize they’re on opposite ends of the same case, a blonde in a blood-red skirt pulls up in a blue Mercedes. After a quick trip inside the house, she retreats to her luxury wheels. Sam and Johnny tail her until she powers through a yellow light. Hours later, the pair learns Tracy disappeared after an apparent struggle in her house before Jerome came home. When not trying to locate Tracy or the blonde, Sam banters with Johnny, works an insurance fraud case, and hangs with her boisterous family and BFF Angie. There are considerable distracting subplots, such as cleaning up Uncle Gino’s cootie-filled house and Sam’s mom’s adventures in widowhood, which take the focus off the mystery. But a sense of humor flows through, and a plus are the off-center characters, primarily 31-year-old Sam, who can “eat like a twelve-year-old, dress like a twenty-five-year-old, and use the analogies of an eighty-year-old.” It’s refreshing to find a detective who grocery shops at gas stations and packs licorice plus a racy novel when going on a stakeout (later feeling “equal parts sugar-sick and frisky”). The story takes dark turns at the climax but not enough to ruin the quirky tone.
This enjoyable cozy, first of a planned series, offers a top-heavy ratio of comedy to creepy.