Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series should enjoy the second in Nancy Bartholomew’s mystery series about Sierra Lavotini. Instead of a smart-mouth bounty hunter, Sierra Lavotini is a smart-mouth and boobacious stripper with a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since I’m new to this genre of fiction, I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the convoluted clues in Drag Strip, and lost interest in “whodunit” before the end. However, the characters created by the author were interesting enough to keep my attention until the very last page. All in all, a book somewhere on the cusp between a C and a B. Instead of grading up, however, I graded down because of the convoluted turn of events in resolving the mystery.
Sierra Lavotini and her friend Ruby Lee Diamond are at a special gig at Dead Lakes Motor Speedway and things aren’t going well. One of the drivers hits Sierra’s beloved Camero, she sees erstwhile beau, Detective John Nailor, plant one on a pert brunette, and she is conked on the head after she goes looking for the missing Ruby. And, oh yeah, Ruby turns up dead, John Nailor says he wasn’t there, and Sierra isn’t being treated well by the Panama City, Florida, police department.
Sierra is determined to earn justice for her dead friend, and if that means doing some investigating on her own, she’s going to do it. But the police are on her tail and John Nailor keeps turning up in her trailer every so often to turn up their physical heat. Then there are the drivers and mechanics at the speedway making her life difficult, John’s partner who always seems to show up at inopportune times, and her nutty neighbor Raydean Charles, an old woman who thinks the Flemish are aliens about to take over the world.
As Sierra earns her living and sleuths on the side, we meet other assorted interesting characters, including her boss, her lawyer, who is also one of her best lap-dance customers, and a couple of the other strippers she works with. And, after she makes an odd phone call to her mother under the pretense of calling a Philadelphia mob boss to impress her boss who thinks she’s “connected” – don’t ask, but it’s a hoot! – her Italian mother and policeman brother come onto the scene to give her more grief and provide additional wacky moments.
The best parts of this story are Sierra’s interactions with Raydean, John Nailor (the sexual tension is delicious here), and her family, whom she enlists to help her solve the mystery. There are some priceless moments in the story, including the scene where Sierra’s mother and Raydean take off after the wife of one of the race car drivers. There’s enough white trash in this particular vignette to fill a trailer park!
With such a rich panoply of characters and situations, the intricacy of the mystery plot is simply too much for the reader to focus upon. Given the choice of enjoying Sierra and her predicaments or solving the clues of who killed Ruby and why, readers will likely focus on Sierra and find themselves distracted by the mystery. I may be wrong, but that would seem to be the opposite of what a mystery novel should strive to achieve. You could do a whole lot worse than reading Drag Strip, but my recommendation is to wait for the paperback this time around.