The first book in a contemporary mystery series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours, 40 minutes
Narrator: Karen Commins

Caroline Slade is a county manager for the Departement of Agriculture in South Caroline. She’s a by-the book civil servant who is strongly considering a divorce from her verbally abusive husband Allen. The only reason they’re still married are their school-age children, Ivy and Zack. Also, her immediate boss had killed himself just a couple of days later and Slade (don’t call her Caroline) takes over for him.

But then a local hog farmer, Jesse Rawlings, offers her a bribe about abandoned ranch. Slade rejects it, of course, wonders if she should report it like the law says. In the end she does report it – which leads her into a world of trouble. She’s known Jesse her whole life, but he turns out to be quite an unpleasant man, threatening her and her family. He even sexually assaults her pretty early in the book and Slade doesn’t report him, thinking of her own reputation.

When FBI Agent Wayne Largo and his younger partner Eddie comes to investigate the case, Slade’s life becomes even more complicated when they want to keep the investigation secret from her co-workers. And the complication just mount up when she becomes attracted to Largo.

This was a good mystery with interesting characters. Almost every character has secrets of their own. The plot isn’t too fast but the tension keeps growing steadily.

Slade is a determined woman and dedicated to her work and family. She always wants what’s the best for her kids and protects them with a gun if necessary. She’s smart and independent at work but stayed married to an abuser for many years (which, sadly, isn’t unrealistic) and didn’t realize some things about people close to her. Her best friend is in the same line of work but lives in a different city. She’s the first person narrator.

However, the book wasn’t perfect. Many of the minor characters are depicted as corrupt or simply malicious under a (somewhat) nice exterior. A bit too cynical view for my tastes. I also didn’t care for the sexual threats Slade is almost constantly subjected to. Otherwise, this was a good read.

A couple of plot threads are left open. I suspect they’ll be followed up in the next book.

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