Every once in a while, I stumble across a writer who excites me, and a few weeks ago, I tripped and fell over Sandra Scoppettone. And am I glad I did. Although she's been writing for decades, first for young adults, later branching into adult mystery, she's new to me. The first book I picked up was Beautiful Rage, a mystery set in a small town, with a missing girl stalked by an internet predator. Since I love small town mysteries and the internet, I had to read it.
Sandra writes with a great deal of empathy for her characters, despite the fact that most of them are flawed. This only makes them more appealing. You won't find any cookie cutter portraits in this novel. She does a good job of building tension, and although I felt for a moment that she was rushing to the end in the last couple of chapters, she did provide a very satisfying and believable conclusion.
Then I picked up another one of her mysteries, and I was hooked. The story I'm reading now, This Dame For Hire, introduces us to one of the most original characters seen in a crime novel in years! Faye Quick is a female private investigator. And what makes that so special? She's plying her trade in Manhattan in 1943. It's a fascinating setting for a mystery story. As a history buff, I can assure you that Sandra has done her research. Her use of slang, and understanding of home front conditions convince the reader that they're really in the setting.
Even Sandra's constant use of dialect doesn't impede the story, but in fact, adds to it, and never slows the reader down. Faye is a smart and sassy protagonist who is cynical enough to do her job, but not so cynical that she can't sympathize with the people she works for, or who work for her. In addition, it's refreshing to read a story where the case is solved by old fashioned detective work, and doesn't lean on advanced forensics or computer databases to solve the crime. Faye works hard to get every answer. She's a tough interviewer and a tough broad. And she's so interesting, I'd enjoy sitting down with her after the case is solved, just to share a cup of java and a slice of lemon meringue pie, so we could chew the fat.
I eagerly looking forward to reading the second Faye Quick mystery, Too Darn Hot. After that, I don't know what I'll do, unless Sandra intends to keep the character going, and I certainly hope she does. This character is just too much darn fun to let go of. If you like noir fiction, atmosphere with a flair, or you're just a history buff, pick up one of these books. You won't regret it.