This is the first book in the ‘Janelle Watkins, Private Investigation’ series, though I have already read and reviewed the second book, Hangtown. It is nice to see that, even reading these two books in reverse order, it doesn’t ruin too much of the character development. And character development is what author Karen Sandler does extremely well.
Janelle Watkins is a former San Francisco police officer, now a private investigator. Though she thought she’d never do another missing child case after leaving the police force, two clients are both asking Janelle to look into missing children, and to make it worse, her investigation will bring her to her hometown of Greenville … which holds many unpleasant memories.
In the course of her search for the missing children, Janelle is reunited with her ex-SFPD-partner and ex-lover Ken Heinz, who is now the sheriff for Greenville County. Ken is investigating a series of arson incidents. Arson brings some bad memories to Janelle.
As I mentioned, author Sandler does a masterful job with her characters. Janelle is a flawed and trouble protagonist. Abused as a child by her father, injured while working with the police, and haunted by a missing child case that ended poorly, Janelle has some destructive obsessions that she has to deal with.
In the midst of the mystery, Sandler explores the human side of Janelle and Ken, which is actually much more interesting than the mystery (but without the mystery there would have been no strong reason for the two to reunite). Knowing a few things about Janelle and Ken, because of my having read the second book, really didn’t negatively impact my reading. If anything, it was good to get some new information.
This is not a feel-good mystery. The story is, at times, dark and disturbing. It is gritty, and it feels much more ‘real’ than the saccharine mysteries that wrap up so neatly, with detectives who lead remarkably pristine lives. But it IS a good mystery with interesting characters.
Looking for a good book? Clean Burn by Karen Sandler is a the beginning of a mystery series that you will want to read if you enjoy a good mystery, a book with interesting characters, or even just a well-written story.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Karen Sandler
series: Janelle Watkins, Private Investigator #1
publisher: Exhibit A
paperback, 304 pages