Top critical review
Getting repetitive and two dimensional, not moving characters forward
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2020
If this had been the first of DeLeon's books I'd read, I wouldn't have continued. It's disappointing to see Gertie reduced to a bumbling comedic relief gag. It is disrespectful to her backstory, it makes her not a credible character. It's lazy writing. Really, she has a full Honey-baked ham in her purse? Come on. Neither Fortune nor Ida even treat her as though she brings any value to their investigative team. Why do that to a main character?
In the first books, the antics with Gertie and Ida Bell were laugh out loud hilarious and they fit with the plot. The last couple of books, they have just been more of the same, and not for any reason that advances the plot.
There is zero reason to have inserted the nonsense with Godzilla. It is not believable, it makes Gertie more ridiculous, and it diminishes the credibility of Fortune as an agent. It doesn't move the story forward.
The gaslighting of Carter is tiresome and unfair. Stop lying to him when he comes to see if the usual suspects were involved. Find another way to get that humor and tension. And if Fortune is bouncing around some career ideas with Gertie and Ida Bell, it doesn't make sense that she wouldn't also talk about that with Carter. It doesn't fit in with the logical progression of her thought process, all of which she's shared with him. These are the strongest parts of the book, when she shares how she's been changed by her time in Sinful and that she can't just go back to what she was. It makes more sense to stick with that flow and include the things she's pondering doing.
And, it's predictable and boring that Carter always says "now you ladies stay out of my investigation" and they ignore him and charge right in. It's not something that a real couple would survive, that kind of disregard and deception.
Do we have to have a Swamp Bar catastrophe in every book? None of these encounters have been funny and all have, again, made Fortune's acumen as an undercover agent seem questionable.
Generally, it seems like the author has an inventory of hijinks that always happen and dusts them off for every book, rather than building character depth and generating some new material.
It's a shame, because there are real gems in these books... usually there are laugh out loud moments, but also usually there are very insightful lessons for us as Fortune unpeels the layers of the victim/villain. She has often reflected on these and though of how they apply to her own psychology.
These and the discussions Fortune has with Walter, Carter, and even Ida Bell and Gertie - the self-reflection - these are where DeLeon is strongest. Unfortunately she is not building a believable small town crowd around these good elements. I've been spoiled by Lucy Score and the amazing ability she has to do character development in all of the supporting characters. These feel two-dimensional in contrast. I hope as DeLeon continues this series she works on that.