I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never met a character like Candace (don’t call me Candy) Starr. In a nutshell she’s a 6’3” hard drinking, foul mouthed ex-con with a diverse resume. Before she went to prison, she was a killer-for-hire. Her father was a hitman & just like any proud papa, he brought his kid into the family business. Now she lives alone above the E-Zee Market where she mans the counter & bounces meth heads who frequent the store.
But it can be hard to shake your reputation. Candace is approached by a wealthy woman with a problem. Her teenage daughter’s boyfriend is a drug dealing slacker & she’d like him…um…extracted from their lives. Perhaps Candace would come out of retirement & help.
The thing is she could really use the money but…whack a teenager? Turns out her reluctance is a moot point. Candace opens the newspaper one day & sees the guy’s smiling face. It seems his body was found in a nearby ravine. Huh. Unfortunately, it brings an old nemesis back into her life. Saunders is the cop who put her away & he’d like nothing better than to send her back to prison. So he pops by the store, sure that she is responsible for his latest homicide.
It’s not a happy reunion. He still thinks she’s in the game, she still thinks the smell of his aftershave is “like being assaulted by a basket of rancid fruit”. But his partner is a different story. After Saunders stomps out, Detective Chien-Shiung Malone has a proposition for Candace. Help solve the case & she’ll tell Candace who murdered her father several years ago.
That gets Candace’s attention. She’s never been able to learn who killed her dad & the need for revenge is like an open wound. She figures all she has to do is hang around with the petite & proper Malone for a few days & she’ll have the name of her final target.
Pretty straightforward, right? Well….that’s before you factor in a couple of pretentious soccer moms, a bounty hunter, a mole in the police force & a dangerous motorcycle gang with hygiene issues (seriously, if you have access to running water there is NO excuse for eye watering BO).
Needless to say there’s much more to the story & there are a couple of pivotal twists so I’ll leave it here to avoid spoilers. What you do need to know is despite the addition of Candace’s snarky humour this is a dark, gritty, hardboiled read. There’s plenty of violence & the f-bombs fly thick & fast. Those bothered by stronger language, racial epithets and/or misogyny should walk away. I confess some of it was a bit much although entirely in keeping with the characters. Just a matter of personal taste & not a reflection of the author’s skills. It is what it is.
Two things in particular really stood out for me. One is the relationship between Candace & Malone. They’re from different worlds. But a gradual understanding & acceptance develops as they spend more time together. The other element was the final few chapters. Despite one disturbing scene (couldn’t decide whether to yell “Eeeew” or “Gross!”) there is a clever reveal that made me reevaluate what I thought I knew. Well done, Ms. O’Cinneide.
Rating this is a tough call. I think I was expecting something slightly lighter due to marketing blurbs & endorsement quotes. If a story is well written/plotted, It all comes down to what you enjoy reading. So if your tastes run more toward the hardbitten take-no-prisoners approach to the genre, this should be right up your street.