I am not sure exactly what I was kind of book this would be when I requested it from Audiobook Jukebox. I have seen the series around, downloaded the first book for free from Amazon, and even did a Choose the Narrator Tour for the series back in March. But I hadn't read it. One thing I can say: this is not a cozy mystery. It is very much a cross between a thriller and a detective mystery interwined with a coming of age story. Because that's what Joy Humbolt does in the book, she grows up the hard way.
The book opens on Joy Humbolt telling us she became Sydney Rye, how it all started. Joy is a young woman, who's biggest problem each day is how blitzed to get when she goes out with her brother and friends. As a pretentious barista in a non chain coffee shop, and recently breaking up with her loser boyfriend Marcus, she snaps and loses in the middle of her shift. The victim, a middle aged woman who comes in orders a drink, really wanting a Frappuccino® trademark item, but clueless about what she will really be getting. Needless to say the manager fires her, especially after she makes a comment about him masturbating in the beans. Yes, Joy is that young and stupid.
In a fit of pique, she heads off to the pound to get a dog. One that will give her the unconditional love and support that she hasn't been able to find from either a boyfriend or her mother. She ends up with Blue. Blue has one blue eye, one brown eye, has the head shape of a collie, with the body size of a great dane and the coloring of a siberian husky. He is a big, big dog, but she falls in love with him at first glance. It is Blue that leads her neighbor to tell Joy about a friend of a friend who knows someone who has a dog walking business she wants to sell. Which leads to her discovering a dead body and eventually becoming Sydney Rye.
This wasn't like anything I have read before. I tend to stick to cozy mysteries, though I am a fan of soft-boiled mysteries. This was darker, harder, grittier. Joy had to grow up fast and is left to deal with the consequences of her actions and how they affect other people. She ends up seeing the darker side of humanity, both in others and in herself.
Sonja Field had an interesting take on Joy. Sonja really nailed a lot of the voices, especially that New York Jewish motherly tone and the bored socialites. One voice in particular, I didn't agree with, at least not until after the book ended and I really thought about it. Now I think she was foreshadowing with her voice. Scary good job. The most interesting thing was the change in Joy's voice and tone. She starts as an annoying Young Adult and gradually progresses into something more mature and seasoned.
This reminded me very much of the Holly Barker series by Stuart Woods. It's definitely not for everyone, but I do think I will be going back for seconds. There are several books in the series out, and I am sure that more audiobooks will follow. This earned 3 stars from me.