The first book in a contemporary mystery series.

Publication year: 1997
Format: print
Publisher: Bantam Crime line
Page count: 275

Connor Westphal moved recently to a small town called Flat Skunk. Her grandparents had a diner there and she decided to change her life and move there, after their deaths. Connor became deaf when she was four years old and while the world around her, especially the school for hearing which she attended, tried to box her in, she made her own way and became a journalist. Now, she runs the town’s weekly newspaper Eureka! She employs the sheriff’s young son Miah part-time. Miah learned sign language so he sometimes interpreters for her and also answers the phone and does other errands.

The former mayor’s widow Lacy wants Connor to run an ad on the paper about her missing sister. Lacy doesn’t want the ad to be traced back to her and acts pretty mysterious otherwise, too. However, the next morning Lacy is found dead on her husband’s grave. Also, the local private investigator Boone has gone missing and his supposed half-brother Dan has suddenly appeared. Connor loves mysteries (she writes a murder mystery puzzle for her paper every week) and she starts to investigate.

This is a fast-paced mystery with quite a large, small town cast of characters. It has plenty of turns and twists and kept me guessing almost to the end.

Connor is a very interesting main character. She’s learned to lipread but has to, of course, see the lips clearly to do that. For the most part, she reads lips so accurately that the dialog isn’t any different from any other book. No doubt this is a stylistic issue because otherwise readers would have quickly become frustrated with dialog where Connor is guessing half the words and often asking “what did you say”. Of course, she can’t hear other noises, like the phone ringing. She’s very determined and uses underhanded tactics to interview people. She even has printed out fake business cards and easily clams to be an insurance agent, for example. She used to be a journalist in San Francisco. She’s on very good terms with the local sheriff and almost-dating the deputy and she isn’t shy to pump every bit of info she can from them.

The cast of characters, and therefore the pool of suspects, is quite large so we don’t get to know most of them. Dan, the missing investigator’s half-brother, is probably the most significant of them. He’s handsome and immediately likes Connor. He appears mysteriously right when his brother goes missing and Boone has never mentioned him, so Dan is a suspect, but he also investigates along with Connor.

The only thing which really bothered me was the way Connor treated her dog. She has a husky whom she’s taught to answer to signs, but she never takes it with her: it’s alone all day and Conner just feeds it. In fact, she treats it like a cat, even though she claims not to like cats. Since she’s her own boss, she could have easily taken the dog to work with her.

I enjoyed learning a little about the deaf. Connor has a touchtype phone which she uses to type calls but the other person needs to have one, too, otherwise it doesn’t work. People also throw things near her or at her to get her attention which I think is rather rude but she herself confesses that she hasn’t thought of a better way.

A quick read and a nice mystery with a lot of twists.