Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Song for You by Betsy Thornton

Title: A Song for You
Author: Betsy Thornton 
ISBN: 9780312380625
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2008
Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Private Investigator, #5 Chloe Newcomb mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: I'd heard stories and there is always something worse than what you are going through right now but it was the worst monsoon in my memory.

To those living elsewhere, the knowledge that Arizona has a monsoon season probably sounds more than a bit humorous-- until you realize that  "monsoon" means "seasonal rains". The deserts of southern Arizona only receive a miserly seven inches of rain per year (in a good year), and those rains are very seasonal: winter and summer. In summer, a monsoon storm can be very fierce with dust storms, strong winds, and an inch of rain that wants to fall in five minutes or less. A lot of water falling that fast on hard-packed dirt can cause torrential run-off.

The Barnetts, newcomers to Dudley, bought themselves a lovely little cottage but weren't prepared for the ferocity of monsoon season. In no time at all they learned that many of the restored features of their home were merely cosmetic. Just skin deep. They were less than pleased when they were told that a retaining wall had to be repaired-- and they were horrified when a dead body is dug up.

The body had been there for quite some time, and when Rachel Macabee reads about it in the local paper, she becomes convinced that the dead man was a member of the rock band her mother sang with when Rachel was a little girl. The man had disappeared a few days before her mother was killed. Not trusting the police (since they'd gotten it wrong the first time), she hires private detective Brian Flynn, a former police officer and Chloe Newcomb's former lover.

Chloe, a victims advocate for the Cochise County Attorney's Office, is becoming more and more disenchanted with her job-- mainly due to her new boss, who's really good at attending meetings only to come back and drive everyone in the office crazy:

I went back to my desk. I couldn't see that victims had it any better now that everything was online. I couldn't see that I had any more time to serve them either. It was more like I had less. I was just a leftover, I thought, from the days before computers, and now the great wheel of technology juiced up by master's degrees in business administration had rolled over me and squished me-- a mashed-up relic-- a human being.

Though Netflix was awfully convenient.

Brian asks Chloe for her help, and although she has misgivings, she agrees. Her career as a victims advocate means that she's a perfect listener; she can deal with highly emotional people and situations and glean the facts. This also means that she approaches Rachel's case from a different perspective than Brian Flynn, so there is conflict between the two. But with both of them on the case, there's little doubt that Rachel will finally learn what happened to her mother and be able to put the past behind her.

Since Brian and Chloe have a history, the dynamics between the two in the workplace makes for some interesting interactions, and as always, Chloe's voice, both interior and exterior, can be very amusing. Rachel, scarred by her mother's death when she was a child, is a very sympathetically drawn character even though some of her behaviors-- and the way the two men in her life treat her-- can be annoying to say the least.

I've enjoyed Betsy Thornton's books since the first, The Cowboy Rides Away. Chloe is a woman with a past that you don't learn about all at once. As a victim advocate her approach to each crime is slightly different than the norm, and she lives in an area-- Cochise County, Arizona-- that's filled with characters and stories. Thornton's characterizations, stories, and use of the wonderful setting of a thinly disguised Bisbee, Arizona, makes this one of my favorite mystery series.


  1. "the wonderful setting of a thinly disguised Bisbee, Arizona"

    That sure looks like Bisbee, AZ on the book cover :)

  2. This sounds like a wonderful mystery series! I'm always looking for a new mystery series to start so I'll definitely be giving this one a try! Great review and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Misfit-- I'm not a book cover person, but the cover on this book and the newest, Dream Queen, are superb and really give a sense of Bisbee. Gotta love it!

    Samantha-- You're very welcome. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I do!


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