Local author Linda Rodriguez offers readers a strong female protagonist, an intriguing mystery and a local setting in her debut novel, Every Last Secret.
As the story begins, Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion” has had all she can take of big city life. The stress of being the highest ranking woman and a homicide detective in the Kansas City Police Department, dealing with a jealous ex-husband who keeps popping up in her life, and the disgrace of having her alcoholic father retire from the police force under suspicious and possibly immoral circumstances force Skeet to seek a calmer and quieter life.
Hoping she will finally find peace, she resigns from the KCPD and heads for the fictional small town of Brewster (which sounds very similar to Parkville), located just outside of Kansas City, to take a position as the chief of a college campus police force.
Everything seems to be going well for Skeet until the student editor of the college newspaper is found murdered in his office. What unfolds for Skeet is a death investigation filled with a pool of unlikeable suspects, layers of academic bureaucracy, and all of her old problems resurfacing with a powerful vengeance.
Whether she likes it or not, Skeet knows she must put her former homicide detective skills to work and unravel the dark secrets of the university and the seemingly perfect small town of Brewster in order to solve the gruesome and heinous crime.
As the body count rises and the case grows more dangerous, Skeet also realizes she needs to stop avoiding her own problems and face her demons back in Kansas City once and for all.
Released in April, Every Last Secret is a recent winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and a good read, but from a critical point of view, this first attempt at the mystery genre by Linda Rodriguez would grab even more attention if the characters were more atypical and the plot not quite so predictable.
The story needs a bigger dose of originality and surprise to make it a true hard-to-put-down, “I’m not going to get any sleep until I finish this book” page-turner.
Also, the novel would benefit from an edgier, grittier writing style which would help its audience not just read about the danger and tension pulsating from the devious plot, but instead almost feel the disturbing emotions jumping off the pages and into their minds.
That being said, if you are from the Kansas City area, you will probably find this is a fun read because of the familiar locations described in the book. Downtown, Westport and the Plaza are mentioned along with Union Station and Jack Stack Barbecue in the freight district.
Additionally, if you read and enjoy Every Last Secret, you’ll be glad to know that Rodriguez is currently working on a second Skeet Bannion book. So, who knows – maybe this will be the first selection in an evolving mystery series with a big spoonful of Kansas City flavor. We’ll just have to wait and see…