Week Ten: Good Day for Chardonnay

I love a lot of things in this world, but few the way I love a mystery series. I love your Spensers and your Elvises and your Myrons, and I am always on the lookout for a new series, even though discovering a series early does mean that the wait in between books is INTERMINABLE.

I was pretty excited back in May to come across the first book in this series, A Bad Day for Sunshine. It looked like there were two books already in the can, so when I finished the first, and went to look for the second, it was quite an unwelcome surprise to find that the second book was not out yet. Add in the fact that the wait for a new Darynda Jones book at the library approaches needing to be measured in geologic time, and I was…let’s just call it impatient for this one. Actually, frantic might be closer to the truth.

The first book sets up the scenario—Santa Fe police detective Sunshine Vicram has been shockingly elected Sheriff of her small New Mexico hometown. I say shockingly, because she didn’t know she was running. Her parents put her on the ballot, hoping to get her and her teen daughter to finally move home, a place that holds decidedly mixed memories for Sun. The first book was really all setup, but I KNOW Darynda Jones, and I knew where we were going, and that was somewhere awesome. See, Jones also wrote the Charley Davidson series, an urban fantasy/mystery series that I *loved*, so I knew that she had the chops to make something fantastic here.

I finally got my mitts on the second book last week. Was it worth the wait?

Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff―and even fuller-time coffee guzzler―Sunshine Vicram, didn’t get that memo. 

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that’s about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny’s got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he’s not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She’s seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn’t know when to quit, Sunny’s life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

This book started a little slow for me. For the first five or so chapters, I wondered where we were going. And then the main plot kicked in and I don’t think I breathed until the final page turn.

Mysteries are tricky to review because even innocuous things feel lIke spoilers. However, I will say that there were several mysteries, and they were all well-paced, and they dovetailed into the main story seamlessly. There is a pretty big reveal at the end of the book that I saw coming from Santa Fe, but even then, it was so emotionally satisfying that I still backed up and read it again. And maybe again.

Supporting characters are well-drawn. Jones manages to give the fairly wide supporting cast their own lives without it feeling like those side details are taking over the plot. Sunshine’s relationship with her parents and her daughter is a highlight for me.

Things I didn’t love? I thought that the plot twist at the end of the book should have been drawn out for at least two more books. I think that it would have felt more earned that way. Also, there is a romantic entanglement early in the book that just felt…wrong. I don’t know Sun all that well yet, but it felt completely out of character. But missteps like that happen early in a series, and the book was wildly entertaining, so I will just scrub the memory of that chapter with a little bleach and all will be well.

Overall, a satisfying effort. I’m already on tenterhooks waiting for book #3.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was really, really good.
Rated R for language, and one fairly explicit sex scene.

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