A Texan Mystery

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Allen

Publication Date: April 19, 2022

Summary from NetGalley:

Annie McIntyre has a love/hate relationship with Garnett, Texas.

Recently graduated from college and home waitressing, lacking not in ambition but certainly in direction, Annie is lured into the family business—a private investigation firm—by her supposed-to-be-retired grandfather, Leroy, despite the rest of the clan’s misgivings.

When a waitress at the café goes missing, Annie and Leroy begin an investigation that leads them down rural routes and haunted byways, to noxious-smelling oil fields and to the glowing neon of local honky-tonks. As Annie works to uncover the truth she finds herself identifying with the victim in increasing, unsettling ways, and realizes she must confront her own past—failed romances, a disturbing experience she’d rather forget, and the trick mirror of nostalgia itself—if she wants to survive this homecoming.

ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

This book was a bit rough starting out, but it does eventually get better and once you get going with it is pretty good. It is more of a character story than it is a murder mystery, but that ended up being ok too.

Annie is a likable enough character. She is young, just out of college, and a bit lost. She just moved home and is trying to figure out what to do with her life. She is also dealing with something that happened in her past, which this story deals with pretty well and does have a bearing on the mystery that is evolving. The journey that Annie takes to find herself is what will hold your attention, more than the murder mystery.

There are a lot of secondary characters, and some of them are even quirky and fun. Some of them could use a little more fleshing out, and some of their backstories were not explained as well as they might have been. I did like Annie’s grandfather, who is a gruff yet lovable soul.

The main issues I had with the book was the writing and the murder mysteries. There are actually two murders, but only one is of concern to Annie, and the secondary one was not really relevant to the main story, so I kept wondering why it was even there. The writing is a bit rough, there are some sections that are disjointed and clunky. The dialogue doesn’t always flow nicely either. There are glimpses of some beautiful writing though, especially the descriptions of the small town and the surrounding areas. The mystery was pretty standard and easily solvable, but it didn’t need to be. There was some nice set up with the victim’s land being wanted by an oil company that could have led somewhere, but it just didn’t. By the time you get to the big reveal, it wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, but it was a pretty obvious choice and motive. That said, it was sort of a let down as I was expecting something bigger.

Overall this book was pretty good, but could use some more editing and smoothing out. It is a debut and the parts that I saw done well are solid enough to make me think about reading another book by this author.

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