My Mission: The Company You Keep by Angela Henry
Harlequin Connection: Published under the Kimani Sepia banner.
Publication Date: 2005
How Long It's Been In My TBR: Less than a year. The author was featured over at Karen's blog, and I followed the link to her web site. I thought her series sounded good and bought the first book off eHarlequin.
Plot: Kendra Clayton is part-time GED instructor, part-time hostess at her uncle's restaurant in Willow, Ohio. A friend of hers from work, Bernie, is dating a worthless, useless man. Jordan Wallace is the kind of smooth operator who charms woman out of their money and good sense. Well Praise The Lord, Bernie acts as if she's finally seen the light! Certainly doesn't hurt matters that she's finally figured out that Jordan is dallying with another woman. Then Jordan ends up dead, and the whole affair gets very sticky. Bernie begs Kendra to withhold a seemingly useless piece of information from the police. Bernie's her friend, and Kendra knows she didn't do it - so what's the harm? Naturally Kendra's good intentions blow up in her face, which lead to her doing a bit of amateur sleuthing on the side.
My Verdict: Just as I hoped, I ended up really liking this book. Henry writes in what I call "chatty" first person. Kendra is your best friend, your favorite coworker and your brother's nice girlfriend all rolled into one. The suspense is also very good, and the author takes her time setting the stage (although we do get the dead body by Chapter 2) and introducing all the players. The writing does occasionally veer towards "info-dumping" when it comes to character back-story, but mercifully it's only for a paragraph or two and the author reins herself in rather quickly. The setting was spot on - I really felt like I knew Willow, Ohio. Right down to her Uncle's restaurant, the local seedy bar and the beauty shop where all the gossip flies.
I will say though that I did figure out the identity of the bad guy about 50 pages before Kendra. That said - I only had about one tenth of the motive figured out. It's pretty involved, and gotta say I was impressed. Also, kudos to the author for wrapping up all her loose ends and red herrings. There were more than a few.
File Under Nitpicky: Is it just me? I tend to get annoyed when authors just don't come out and tell me when the story takes place. Although this was published in 2005, the story takes place sometime during the 1990s. One of Kendra's friends sets her up on a blind date and describes the guy as a "man of the 90s." Kendra also mentions that she hasn't gotten around to buying a CD player yet because cassettes are still readily available and the girls in the beauty shop are watching a trashy talk show that has Kendra fearing for the state of society "in the 90s." Why not just come out and say "May 1993" or whatever. I'll admit, this is way beyond nitpicky. It just happens to be one of my quirks.
Final Grade = B. So much for cleaning out my TBR. Now I have to buy the next two books in this series. Damn.