Brenda Novak~~ 4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews
The last thing Rod Guerrero wants is to go back to Bordertown, Arizona. His mother was a UDA (or undocumented alien) working in the lettuce fields, where his father took advantage of her. Life was hard growing up, and his mother is now dead. When his father calls to ask for his help in finding the killer of a dozen UDAs, he reluctantly comes. As bad as it is to be back at the site of so much misery, one of the hardest parts is dealing with Bordertown's chief of police, Sophia St. Claire.
Sophia was once a spoiled young princess who humiliated Rod when she stood him up for a school dance, but life since then has hardened and toughened her. Now she's the police chief, but many in the town wish Leonard Taylor had the job instead. Sophia thinks he may be killing the UDAs just to make her look bad. She resists Rod's involvement in the case at first. In fact, she uses her Taser on him. Soon she's grateful for his involvement, even when he blows hot and cold. Love, or at least lust, is in the air, but first they have a baffling investigation to solve, where every stone unturned reveals more evil and corruption crawling underneath.
Brenda Novak is a writer with a gift for romance and intrigue, and this is well showcased in this second tale of Department 6. Once Rod and Sophia get over the bitterness of their pasts (which is a wild ride in itself), they work together as a well‑matched team, and the mystery has enough serpentine twists to keep readers guessing. The setting of Arizona in summertime is a character in itself, and the hot‑button timeliness of the subject matter gives this tale a ripped‑from‑the‑headlines feel.
Heather Nordahl Files
Francesca Moretti is a private investigator whose latest case involves a missing woman. She's sure she's found her, but Butch Vaughn, her suspect and the owner of the salvage yard she's standing in, has found her as well. She fears for her life, but makes her getaway, bringing the police back to triumphantly reveal the body. But the body is nothing but a mannequin, so Francesca is left humiliated...and in danger because Butch has her purse, containing her keys and cell phone, which contains the names, addresses and phone numbers of her friends and family.
Also on the case is Jonah Young, a very sore subject with Francesca. Ten years ago, they were in love. But then Jonah cheated on her with her best friend and got that friend pregnant. Adriana gave away the baby and is now married with kids of her own. Francesca forgave her friend but cannot do the same for Jonah. But there's little time to fret about their relationship, as proof of Butch's guilt proves elusive. Could his frail, mentally ill brother‑in‑law be the guilty one? It's hard for Francesca to let go of her conviction that Butch is an evil man.
This third tale in the Department 6 Hired Guns series is the best yet. Like the others, it stands alone, and the romance and mystery plotlines are equally compelling. What makes this a five- star read is the complexity of the characters as well as the twists and turns of the multi‑layered plot. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this one, and so will you!
Heather Nordahl Files