Following the success of the Stephanie Plum series (of which I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan!), there has been an explosion of what you might call “sassy/cozy” mysteries and thrillers. This book follows (closely) in Plum’s footsteps, but it’s managed to carve out a unique niche for itself, both because of the setting (Texas trailer park) and the heroine’s struggling relationship with her faith.
The plot is familiar to fans of the genre: down-on-her-luck heroine finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and also between two men. Salem Grimes has the wry wit and zany ability to stumble into things she shouldn’t of her sisters in genre, but her problems are unusually serious: she’s a recovering alcoholic who’s trying to make amends for all the hurt she’s caused, deal with her dysfunctional family and a lifetime of trauma, and turn her life around. And maybe lose the 40 pounds she’s put on since she went sober. I won’t go into the plot details, other than to say that they’re satisfyingly appropriate to the genre, but I will say that I alternated between chuckling over Salem’s escapades and feeling genuinely touched by her plight. Readers expecting something super-hot should know that there’s no sex in the story, although there are unexpected pregnancies; instead, a lot of the tension is taken up with Salem’s search for a genuine sense of faith in her newly-adopted Christianity. The book manages to make her prayers and her doubts sincere without coming across as preachy, and turns what could have been standard fare into a story that is both funny and heartfelt.