You might say Callaway Wilde is having a bad week. First, after a business meeting she’s approached by people who seem to be muggers, and Callie is forced to kill one in self-defense. The next day the victim’s brother shows up dead in her house, in an apparent attempt to frame Callie for murder. If people dropping like flies around her weren’t enough, her estate lawyer presents her with a letter from a long lost sister claiming twenty million dollars of her late father’s fortune and her not-so-loving mother takes her to lunch just to accuse her ruining her life. Could things get any worse? Well yeah – someone really wants Callie dead.
Not one to sit around and wait to end up in the morgue, Callie fights back by asking questions and accepting that the list of suspects could be anyone in her family from her mother and half-brother to her step-father. The only consolation in this mess is spending time with LAPD detective Evan Paley. Unfortunately, until the case is solved they can’t take their relationship beyond flirting and long conversations, just another incentive to close the case, as if keeping Callie alive weren’t already enough.
Callie Wilde is a great protagonist, which is a good thing as the story is told from her point of view. Callie is the product of a broken marriage, and due to her inherited fortune always questions whether people like her for her or for her money. A former cocaine addict, Callie worries when her life starts to fall apart that she might fall back into that old trap of dependency. Yet, this time she has her friends and detective Paley for support, and potentially a younger sister, who understands what it means to be alone. Callie is a strong woman, smart, in control of her life, and knows when to do it herself and when to fall back allowing those more knowledgeable, like the cops, to handle situations as they arise.
Evan Paley is a solid love interest. He isn’t wowed or overwhelmed by Callie’s wealth. He knows how to get around her control issues, and understands that she needs to learn to trust him. He also knows how to do his job and under what restrictions he must operate. In other words, no matter how interested he is in Callie, he doesn’t let it sway him from doing the job. Also, since this is a mystery, the relationship is on the back burner and Evan is really just a secondary character. Other characters rounding out the cast are Callie’s loyal and overly competent British butler Deidre, her best friend and stuntwoman Ginny, and the alleged long lost sister Sabrina. These women are Callie’s sources for support, and are more protective than her family.
The story clicks along at a fast pace and the evidence adds up; there are no red herrings or villains turning into exposition fairies to have the answer to the mystery make sense. For a debut effort this book is solid fun. It’s not too dark, despite the heavy material, and not so light as to turn the case into a joke. The characters are well rounded, not perfect but still likable. The villains are not pure evil, they’re human with human flaws and human motivations to their crimes. Overall a fun read, and I hope this does not turn out to be a one shot deal. I look forward to spending time with Callie and the gang again, and I would especially enjoy watching her relationship with detective Paley develop further.