Author: Ami Elizabeth Reeves
Publisher: Avalon Books
The following review was contributed by: Jennifer Brown & Click Here To View Jennifer Brown's Reviews
Not all hunks hang out in chambray shirts and skin tight blue jeans, eating sushi on their way to the gym. Some of them knock around in gym shorts and cowboy boots, slurping up cold cereal before heading out to their jobs at the local chicken restaurant. Not all heroines are trendy, rich twenty-somethings with glam jobs and manicures. Some of them are track-star runaways who drive VW busses. Not all murders are committed in dark alleyways with anonymous knives. Sometimes they’re committed in the most unlikely of places…with a most unlikely weapon.
Meet Sally Brown, a high school track star from Phoenix out to shed her mother’s tyranny and beat her nemesis’s one mile record by “borrowing” her best friend’s van and running away to her sister’s house in Delight, Arkansas. Within hours of being in Delight, she finds out through a local reporter that she’s going to “turn the town upside down.”
When the same reporter later turns up murdered at the annual Arkansas Chicken Cook-Off, found by Sally herself in a room of the hotel where the cook-off is being held, the whole town of Delight is indeed turned upside down.
Sally meets a whole host of unlikely characters, such as Johnny Third with his amazingly poor driving skills and his dream of becoming a food sculptor; Miss LuElla, her frightful and dying grandmother; Mug Holden, her quiet and elusive brother-in-law; and a nine months pregnant Suzanne, her sister, who has some major anxiety issues.
Throw into the mix one Battle Jonley, beauty queen gone thick around the middle; RD Blackwell, mayoral candidate with a few secrets to hide; and Honey Dillon, a mammoth female bodyguard, and the murder is bound to be a mystery, one that isn’t easily solved. Who killed the reporter at the cook-off? Why? And what does it all have to do with Sally Brown?
NEXT OF KIN, by Ami Elizabeth Reeves, is a thriller the likes of which is not often seen. It is fun and rich while maintaining the whodunit plot beautifully. Reeves works hard to keep the novel light and amusing – not easy when the premise is murder – and creates a crime the reader just can’t help but chuckle over.
The characters in NEXT OF KIN are the cornerstone of the story. With plots so twisted they’d give Shakespeare a run for his money and people so “real” they remind you of your second cousin twice removed, the characters keep the story going. Everyone in Delight, it seems, has a story to tell, a secret to hide, a quirk to take them down. There’s enough symbolism in the story to keep an English teacher busy for a decade; yet somehow Reeves manages to keep the story from drowning in it. Instead, the reader is likely to make a fun game of hunting down symbolic names and places, left with the impression that the author orchestrated each move of writing the story carefully, something that shows in the tidiness of the tale.
When it comes to murder mysteries, Ami Elizabeth Reeves’s novel, NEXT OF KIN, is in a class of its own. It’s a book that’s sure to, well…delight.