Both my husband and I are from the deep south although we did live in Colorado for twelve years. For us it was both something of a cultural adventure as well as a geographic one. Remembering that time and some of our experiences are still a source of enjoyment.
For example, there was the day we took a driving trip off off the beaten path in a lesser populated area of the foothills below Pike’s Peak. As we were driving, we passed a little store standing alone on the side of the road and decided to stop and explore. When we walked in, the man behind the counter looked like a reincarnation of Pancho Villa, complete with handlebar mustache, two six shooters on his hips, and leather straps crossing his chest filled with bullets for said six shooters. Even for the west, he seemed a trifle eccentric.
On a different trip, we took a drive on July 4th, traveling a couple of hours on a switchback dirt road when we came upon a small town. More accurately, we came upon what we thought was a small town. Our exploration revealed it was the remainder of a town that had become a ghost town. The buildings were still largely intact, but no one had lived there in quite some time. The town was both beautiful and eerie. As we wandered around, it began to snow. Not that snow on July 4th is that odd at higher elevations, but it added to the town’s mystique for these multi-generation southerners.
Much of the west was no different from living in the south. People were friendly, with all the requisite places to shop, eat, live, etc. The biggest difference was probably the vast openness, which was a totally new experience for us. These are some of the memories that added to my enjoyment of the latest book I read, A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones. In this book, Sunshine Vicram returns to Del Sol, New Mexico to take up her job as the newly elected sheriff of the town. Del Sol is unique as a town and, while nothing like the places we visited, I can totally imagine it in the west I remember. Here’s my review of the book.
A delightful new series featuring a slightly skewed cast of characters living in a slightly tilted town so that all of them have the feeling they are actually standing straight rather than on a slant. There’s Sunshine, the new sheriff in town, who was elected without living in the town, or even knowing she was on the ballot. Her adorable daughter, Auri, who has a deep sense of love for her mom, some interesting investigative skills of her own, and is beginning to awaken to what it really means to be interested in boys.
Sunshine and Auri are surrounded by other, well developed characters you would love to meet, maybe even sit down with for a cup of good strong coffee at the local coffee shops run by a couple of guys whose claims to fame are the coffee and treats they offer and a mysterious eyeliner application Sunshine and Auri are determined to obtain.
Other characters adding interest and depth to the book and, hopefully, to the series are Levi, an old flame of Sunshine’s who has such an effect on her she goes into an almost fugue state; Quincy, the hunky detective who has been a lifelong friend of Sunshine; Sunshine’s parents who managed to secure her election as sheriff, and Zee, a beautiful detective/sharpshooter who has a small, but pivotal role in this book.
The book is not devoid of people who are easy to dislike, too. There’s Lynelle, who is the epitome of a mean girl and intent on making life difficult for new student, Auri; Cruz, the boy who awakens interest in Auri and steps up as her protector; the mayor, who seems to have a major dislike of Sunshine to name two.
In this novel, which starts with Sunshine’s first day on the job, the first inkling that it’s going to be a bad day is the delivery of a basket of muffins from local resident Ruby Moore. It seems she when she senses there are going to be bad things happening, she sends muffins to the station. Her premonition, at least in this book, seems to be fulfilled several times over. Auri encounters Lynelle who has several attempts to make her life miserable, the mayor threatens Sunshine’s job, Levi appears across the street and totally distracts her and, as a result, she doesn’t see the car that runs through the front of the sheriff’s station and stops inches away from her head. Turns out, the car is being driven by a frantic mother who believes her daughter has been kidnapped. What a start to your first day on the job.
As the book progresses, Sunshine wades deep into the investigation of the kidnapping, with messages that make her believe she only has about three days before the girl will be killed. Auri deals with Lynell who airs a student newscast detailing some of Auri’s history, reporting on Auri’s birth and father with information that has been carefully suppressed for her entire life. All this happens against the background of Auri’s awakening interest in the opposite sex and Sunshine’s sexual fantasies about Levi.
There is so much happening in the book, which switches primarily from Sunshine’s point of view to Auri’s point of view, it’s hard to put down. The characters are engaging, the dynamics of the relationships are interesting, the solution, while not a major surprise, is a satisfying conclusion. While it’s easy to keep up with what is happening at any given point in the book, you want to continue reading because it’s so enjoyable.
The author’s style in telling the story is a bit unique and, as such, it took me a few pages to adjust. Once I fell into the rhythm of the book, it was easy to read and moved swiftly. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advanced digital reader copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I’m delighted to have lived in the west for a number of years, even though we finally returned to our southern roots. I’m even more delighted to be able to visit a version of it through books like this one; and I’m already looking forward to a return trip. Wherever you travel with your books, I wish you Happy Reading.