Darla is a former Philadelphia homicide cop who moved down to Jackson, Mississippi following the termination of her football star husband who was killed in a car accident soon thereafter. She now works for the Hinds County Sheriff's department. Shelby, the Sheriff, asks her to come back from leave and investigate the murder of a local religious icon who has been shotgunned in front of the abortion clinic where he was protesting and harassing clinic staff and patients.
Unfortunately, Darla gets paired with the worst detective in the department, Tommy, a fan of the dead reverend, and one who has already made up his mind that the clinic doctor is the culprit. He also performs as an Elvis impersonator on weekends.
He did look a little like Elvis in the face, especially with those razor-cut sideburns and the pompadour hair dyed jet black. But then there was his body, a shorter version of the bloated older Elvis. He was more like Elvis as a Hobbit. Darla pictured Kendall whacking him with his Gibson back in high school and thought how he’d probably never lived it down. It was funny but also pathetic. Jackson, with a metro population of over 400,000, still had a small-town way of remembering every embarrassing thing anybody ever did. . .An officer don’t get demoted for being stupid. Usually they get an assistant, which unfortunately we can’t afford at present. To get fired, a detective like Tommy needs to get caught doing something downright illegal. Then maybe we can do a little wrist slapping. Unfortunately, Tommy ain’t got the smarts to try anything ambitious.
Much to Darla and Shelby's consternation, it's Tommy who keeps bringing in the suspects. He has the contacts and loves the publicity that accompanies solving crimes. Perhaps if Darla would quit mooning over the good doctor and got busy she might do better at solving the crime. I think my favorite character is Uther Pendragon (yes, of Arthurian fame,) the geek brought in as an intern whose pattern recognition software ultimately solves a peripheral series of crimes.
The investigation itself is perhaps the weakest part of the book. It's the humorous passages that kept me reading. Here's another example:
"It all sounded sweet, but was it sugar or saccharin? People in Mississippi always managed to sound so nice. Always using phrases like “bless his heart” when you knew they hated the person they were talking about. Kendall once said, “You can call anyone in the state anything you like, as long as you bless their heart afterward. For instance, I could say ‘My ex-husband is a lying, cheating, morally bankrupt, no-good prick, bless his heart.’ That would be perfectly acceptable in polite society. You just have to bless their heart.”
Not to mention the horrifying story of the Hemmings Plantation prostitution scheme. I note the author lives in Jackson, and I would hope that revelation has no basis in fact.
Excellent police procedural with all the elements I like: humor, interesting characters, and a good mystery. I really enjoyed this book and hope a series results. My thanks to the publisher for this advance copy in return for my objective review. Note that quotes are from the uncorrected proof.