In Kelly’s (Hill Country Greed, 2013) second thriller featuring Joe Robbins, the chief financial officer is determined to connect a shady businessman to a drug cartel after Joe’s friend is murdered.
Joe’s content with his new gig as temporary CFO of Hill Country Capital, a real estate fund, but his best friend, Neil Blaney, isn’t so sure the company is kosher. Neil recommended Joe for the job, but now he’s worried about Kenji Tanaka, an investor for the firm, whom Neil suspects may be involved with drug smuggling. He digs into Kenji’s background, but someone puts a few bullets in Neil before he can tell Joe anything other than a cryptic “[h]e’s working with the cartels” as he dies. Joe picks up on an investigation Neil had already initiated, questioning a DEA agent and company employees. Very few people are forthcoming, which means that Joe’s friend may have stumbled onto something big—but also that Joe may be on his own. Murder initially seems to be just another subplot: The story begins like a drama, as Joe hopes to reunite with estranged wife, Rose, and daughters, Chandler and Callie, while helping Amity Jones, a prostitute, get into rehab, footing the bill when he can hardly afford it. But the mystery gradually takes the lead, and all of Joe’s struggles—from emotional to financial—affect his decisions as he works to solve the mystery. The capable protagonist had been a boxer and knows how to shoot a gun, so he’s more than prepared for an eventual confrontation. Joe’s wanting to repair his broken family is a worthy purpose, highlighted by several scenes with Chandler and Callie; he listens to the 10- and 8-year-old fight over who gets to talk to Daddy on the phone in a sequence that’s endearing without feeling contrived or too sappy. References to Kelly’s preceding novel are kept in check so readers unfamiliar with the series won’t be lost.
Joe may be a good CFO, but he’s an even better detective and carries the mystery like a seasoned professional.