A Time Of Change by Aimee and David Thurlo. I wanted to like this book, I really did. Instead I was bored with it and counting down the pages until I was finally done with it.
Josephine Buck is a young Navajo woman living in New Mexico. She's got a very busy life, which includes working at The Outpost (a local store that sells everything from food-stuffs to crafts by local artisans) and an apprenticeship with a local medicine man. She's single, her parents are both gone, but she has a good life. That is until she walks into work one day and finds her boss, Tom, dead. It looks like a suicide, but turns out he was tortured to death.
Coming home on leave from the Army to deal with his dad's violent end is Ben Stuart. He and the old man were somewhat estranged, but were working their way back into a relationship. The cops say his old man chose to eat a bullet and Ben know that's total crap. No way would his Dad commit suicide. Now he's home to look into the matter, and runs smack dab into Jo - the girl he loved and lost in high school. As if that weren't complicated enough? Turns out his old man left Jo a decent sized chunk of what should have Ben's inheritance. Awkward!
There were a few things I really liked about this story. The Thurlos do a nice job with the New Mexican setting, and if you're a reader who goes for that southwest flava in suspense stories - this aspect was well done. I also liked Jo's character quite a bit. She's very much a Traditionalist, adhering to the "old ways" of the Navajo, and really desires to become a Singer (medicine woman). She's an interesting young woman, and I liked her.
Sadly, that was pretty much about it for me. The rest of this story was rather thin, especially when we're talking about the characters. Even though Jo was interesting, I never felt like the authors delved inside her head enough. They skate the surface, especially when it comes to her father's alcoholism and how that effected her. Ben, on the other hand, is never interesting and just annoying. Bipolar Hero, thy name is Ben. One minute he's flirting and making eyes at Jo, the next he's arguing with her about how she "abandoned" him in high school when he needed her most, the next he's kissing her, and then he's accusing her of sleeping her way into her inheritance from his Dad. Seriously, I didn't know whether to smack him, punch him, or kick him in the giblets.
The tonal style of this story is also all over the place. On one hand it should have been a gritty suspense novel. Ben's dad was essentially tortured to death, baddies keep threatening Jo and The Outpost, heck at one point Jo discovers a decapitated body near her home. On the other hand? It's like the authors were shooting for cutesy-wootsy small-town contemporary. There are secondary characters with plenty of baggage and various locals swinging by the story. Jo and Ben obviously want to discover what got Tom killed, but amazingly (and unbelievably) enough they seem to shut out the violence around them, banter with locals, and flirt with each other. It just.....didn't work for me. At all.
The authors introduce enough secondary players, and certainly set up the area well enough, that I suspect this could be the first book in a series. Sadly, I think this is where I get off. Digging a bit deeper with the characters, and keeping the story "dark" (like maybe Southern Gothic, except set in the Southwest) would have gone a long way in ramping up my enjoyment. As it stands, I was mostly bored by it, and had I not requested an advanced copy of this I would have DNF'ed it about halfway through. Final verdict is very much "meh."
Final Grade = C-