Author: Laura Oles

Publisher: Red Adept

ISBN-10: 0615816312; ISBN-13: 978-0615816319

Pivotal to Laura Oles’s debut novel, Daughters of Bad Men, is the sense of place and people that permeates this gritty crime thriller. Set in Port Alene, a mythicized version of the Texas coastal city of Port Aransas, which is only a three-hour drive away from where she lives in Texas Hill Country, the setting holds an especially dear place in the author’s heart, especially in view of it having suffered so badly from the depredations of Hurricane Harvey. As befits the darker world of Daughters of Bad Men, however, the town takes on a murkier side in the form of the challenges faced by its deeply conflicted characters, not least of which is the emotionally troubled skip tracer, Jamie Rush.

Rush wishes to have as little as possible to do with her nefarious family, most specifically her estranged brother, Brian, that is, until he literally begs her to help find her missing niece, Kristen. When she very quickly does, what she finds catapults the lead protagonists into a situation that becomes more tumultuous by the minute, and one that tears at the very heart strings of the otherwise fairly close-knit Port Alene community. Oles clearly feels very deeply for her fictional characters, on whose lives and adventures she intends to expand in her forthcoming books in the selfsame series.

As is fitting for a finalist for the 2016 Killer Nashville Claymore Award, Daughters of Bad Men is taut with suspense, and a sense of foreboding danger is ever-present. Counterpoised against the shady dealings of her brother’s real estate scams and the instability of his set of cronies are the life-enhancing relationships that PI Jamie Rush has with her BFL and colleague-in-arms, Cookie, and her friend, Erin, who is a newbie bookie. The heart-stopping pace of the central narrative hurries the reader along at a nerve-jolting rate, while Oles’s questioning of the deeper ethical and moral issues that are very much brought into play in the course of the novel lead one into considering the familial bonds that can either tie a society together or tear it apart.

Oles, in speaking of the affinity between her fictional subject matter and her long-running career as a prolific photo industry journalist, tells of the role that keen observation plays in both. The profession of skip tracing is certainly forefronted in Daughters of Bad Men, giving the work a keen edge and powerful impetus that keeps the reader glued to the text from start to finish. All those who are interested in the detecting genre, but especially those who enjoy a finely drawn set of characters, and the interplay between them, are not only likely to savor every page of Daughters of Bad Men, but also to anticipate with great interest Oles’s coming books in the series.