by LynDee Walker
Book 2 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller
It wasn't the first time I'd smelled a dead body, but the faintly sweet, acrid stench didn't get less putrid with repeated exposure.
The scene was quiet for a body recovery, just as I'd hoped. Not another reporter in sight.
When an Armani-clad corpse turns up in a shallow grave in the Virginia woods, Nichelle Clarke is the first reporter on the scene. The victim is a tobacco lobbyist with a mysterious past, and Nichelle suspects that his shady business connections are what's driving local politicians to push for a quick arrest. She soon uncovers a web of astonishing corruption: A dark trail of illegal kickbacks and high-end call girls that stretches all the way to Washington, D.C.
For Nichelle, it could be the news story of the year. But the power players at the center of the plot have everything to lose, and Nichelle's crusade for the truth lands her right in the crosshairs of the killer.
This second book in the Nichelle Clarke series was maybe a little bit more disappointing than I had hoped. Sure, it was still written well, and I still like Nichelle. But I think I would like her better if she didn't blatantly ignore warnings of danger just to trudge forward without a care. As much as I hated the scene with the stuffed Pomeranian toy, I'm glad that it kind of gave her a wake-up call... even if she still didn't really see the danger in the story she was pursuing. At least she was taking some action to keep her puppy safe, even if she wasn't taking steps to keep herself safe.
The story pacing and the writing is still winning, though. As I stated, I still like Nichelle. I like that she's smart, resourceful, and has a way with puzzles. I didn't really care for her trying to edge into another co-worker's area though, because it left me feeling like she was trying to steal someone else's job. She'd been spending time complaining about Shelby trying to steal her job since book one, so it felt a little contradictory. At the very least, she DOES finally admit that she's not trying to steal Trudy's political beat, and goes to Trudy with questions as well as offers the scoop to her co-worker.
It's a little too convenient, however, that Trudy dismisses Nichelle's insights, thus giving Nichelle a green light for continuing her investigation, conscience-free.
I AM glad for the fact that Nichelle covers more than just the "mystery of the week." In fact, there are more mysteries going on in this book than I'd expected, and enough to keep readers guessing for hours. Simply the mystery of the missing white chocolate syrup was lingering in the background.
But to be totally honest, the ending wasn't really all that surprising to me, even if I didn't see it coming. And I felt like it was kind of abrupt. All the other incidents that Nichelle covered in this book felt like they should have been separate incidents, but everything tied together in the end, though. I'm not sure if I like that everything ties together in the end, or if I would have preferred to see Nichelle working an article on an incident that had nothing to do with the "mystery of the week," just to show us that there's more going on in this world than the one big convoluted scandal that serves as the main conflict in this book.
Meanwhile, I'm not a big fan of love triangles, but I could smell this one coming a mile away. I don't know how to feel about it at the moment, because not a whole lot of character is given to either male love interest--at least not enough for me to like one over the other. And since I don't like triangles, I'm really hoping that this one doesn't keep up for too long and Nichelle either chooses one guy... or chooses no one. At this point, you can kind of see her leaning more towards Mr. "Call Me Joey," though it could have just been because of the fact that she and ATF Agent Kyle have a history she's reluctant to get into.
At this point, I am kind of glad that Nichelle's world doesn't revolve around her love interests. They're really just afterthoughts for her at the moment, even if she finds both of them attractive and alluring.
I'm still not digging the color commentary about Shelby's bedroom habits--nor am I feeling the necessity of Shelby's "Mean Girl" act. I don't feel like it brings much to the table--Nichelle's urgent deadlines still stand whether or not there's someone actively vying for her position. The fact that she's got a friendly rivalry going on with Charlie from News Channel Four also serves to keeps her on her toes as is.
Otherwise, this second book of the series wasn't bad. It wasn't incredible, nor was it as exciting or entertaining as the first, but it was still enjoyable, and fast-paced enough that I finished it in a breeze.
Other possible squares: Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women