“ Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Joni Rodgers / Kindle Edition / 249 Pages / Book is published 2012-08-03 by Stella Link Books „
Shep Hartigate is an ex-cop who now makes a living working for a high-flying divorce lawyer by finding evidence to secure a lucrative settlement for Houston's rich and famous. Something strange is happening, however, and several of these soon-to-be-exes are very conveniently meeting untimely ends. Shep is approached by Smartie Breedlove who's best friend, Charma recently met a sticky end and although the official verdict was suicide, Smartie is convinced there's foul play involved somewhere.
Anyone who's trawled through the free books in the Kindle store will know that finding something that is actually worth reading amongst the plethora of self-published stuff is pretty slim but with Kill Smartie Breedlove, I think I found a bit of a hidden gem.
One of the best tips I can give to any new Kindle owner is, if you see a book offered for free, grab it quick because sooner or later either Amazon or the author will start charging for it. That's how I came to get Kill Smartie Breedlove which was being offered for free. Now, however, because of its subsequent popularity, this is currently selling for £3.17 at Amazon UK, even though it's still being given away for free on the US site!
The author Joni Rodgers has previously written a few moderately successful novels but it seems that in recent times publishers have turned their noses up at her offerings and she's therefore gone down the self publishing route. If you enjoy your crime fiction along the lines of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, you'll love this novel because Smartie bears all the hallmarks of a modern day, albeit female Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe certainly in terms of her wise-cracking attitude to life.
Smartie Breedlove may have a name which sounds more suited to a porn star but she is, in fact, a successful writer of a popular pulp fiction series featuring private eye, Smack Wilder. Smack is Smartie's alter ego and Smartie uses her own experiences to breathe life into Smack, often penning dialogue in her head as she goes on her merry way.
Smartie thinks she's onto something odd. Her good friend Charma committed suicide, or at least that was the Coroner's official verdict, but Smartie believes that Charma had everything to live for. She was married and expecting a baby, so why would she suddenly jump off the roof of Houston's swanky Bonham's Hotel. Smartie's belief is that Charma didn't jump, she was pushed. And she's uncovered a link between a top flight Houston divorce law practise and a series of inexplicable deaths. Smartie shares her theory with Shep Hartigate who works as a private investigator for Salinger, Pringle, Fitch & Edloe, the law firm in question and he'd been tailing Charma before her untimely end. Shep doesn't buy into Smartie's theory at all and besides he has more immediate problems of his own to deal with.
Some twelve months later, Shep and Smartie meet up again and Shep is surprised to discover that Smartie is still convinced that his employer, Suri Fitch, one of the partners in the law firm, is involved in a shady business which involves bumping off soon-to-be-exes. This time, Shep is more open to her suggestion that he help her discover the truth and this unlikely duo begin their investigation.
I've never come across Joni Rodgers before but after reading this very enjoyable book, I'll certainly be trying more of her work. The book is full of smart and sassy dialogue, all delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.
Smartie has a wonderfully warm personality but with regard to her friend's death she's like a dog with a bone. She's also a committed authoress and even whilst in the midst of her investigations, she's composing dialogue for her latest Smack Wilder novel. These novels always involve Smack solving a crime, assisted by her latest love interest, who never survives long enough to feature in the next book. Shep is going to be her latest male lead with the name of Tag Mason.
Shep is a more complex character than Smartie. He's not only a grieving widower but something of a guilty one, too. Despite loving his late wife, he was unfaithful during his marriage and she used him as the role model in her comic book series, the final one of which has just been published. It demonstrates that his wife knew and understood Shep better than he did himself. Basically, he's a decent enough guy but easily tempted. His failings not only cost him the respect of his late wife but also his job with the Houston police department and the reason why he's working for a divorce lawyer.
Writers are always advised to write about what they know and Joni Rodgers knows about writing and also about Houston, her home town. She also knows about the publishing business and gets in quite a few sharp digs at that particular profession, I suspect because of the treatment she's received at the hands of various publishing houses.
Although the book is quite bitty, all the various strands of the story come together very neatly at the end and the story is told in a sharp and witty style. I loved the little snippets of the Smack Wilder novels which we see, all of which are well laced with humour. At one stage, Smartie is trying to describe the naked backside of her heroine's latest love interest. After many failed attempts at this, she settles for 'He had a great ass.'
This was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery novel with lots of twists and turns to the plot despite being a little confusing in parts and it reaches a very satisfactory end. I'm not sure it's worth the £3.17 being asked for it, however, and suggest if you want to read this, you get it through Amazon.com rather than Amazon UK.