Tai Randolph doesn't set out to be a detective, but she cannot help her insatiable curiosity, her need to know the truth, and her penchant for finding trouble. The opening of Whittles first novel finds Tai in the wrong place at the wrong timespecifically, in the driveway of her brother's Atlanta house, where she has just discovered a dead bodyand that sets her off on an adventure that leads her through some interesting twists and turns.
Having recently inherited a gun shop, she is no stranger to firearms. The irony is that she has no license to carry yet, so she cannot use any of them for protection. But her brother Eric, who is absent for much of the novel, tries to take care of that problem by assigning her a bodyguard from the security firm where he works. That bodyguard is Trey Seaver, who is unlike anybody Tai has have known.
Trey's character is interesting and unique. When Tai runs into him at her brother's house on the night of the murder, she thinks he is an intruder. Since she has no gun, she grabs the first weapon at hand, a decorative Samurai sword that probably wouldn't cut butter. She holds him at bay until she can phone local police detective, Dan Garrity, who sternly warns her to drop the sword, "And get the hell away from Trey, I mean, right now." Fortunately, nothing terrible happens and help arrives quickly, but it makes Tai wonder what the problem is with this Seaver character, and why Garrity was so afraid for her.
It isn't until the next day that she finds the answers, and once again, it is Tai's inquisitiveness and her tendency to bound ahead full-speed that both leads her to answers and gets her into trouble. When told to meet with Trey at Phoenix Security, she takes advantage of his tardiness to pick up a file from his desk. Interrupted unexpectedly, she is forced to slip it into her purse and unintentionally leave the building with it.
In the file, she learns that Trey suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident many years ago which left him with "permanent cognitive impairment" that has resulted in both positive and negative changes in his functioning and personality. Unlike before the accident, Trey now wears expensive Armani suits, drives a Ferrari, and never seems to lose his cool. Later she learns that Trey now also possesses "a heightened sensitivity to micro-emotive readings," meaning that he can tell when people are lying. But he doesn't show emotion, and when he feels threatened, he can be triggered into an aggressive state. To Tai, he is an enigma, which may be the reason why she finds herself developing a deeper interest in him as the mystery unfolds.
Another great character, and the only other person Tai trusts, is her computer-saavy, gay friend, Rico. A bit of a flamboyant and colorful personality, Rico adds some nice comic relief to the story without compromising the seriousness of the situation. Watching Tai haul her reluctant pal into her schemes is fun, and he proves to be helpful to her in a number of ways. I wish he had been given a larger role, but hopefully he will make an appearance in future "Tai Randolph" mysteries.
My only criticism of the novel is that out of all of the characters, Tai was the least well drawn. We get a pretty good sense of her personality, but very little of her past (except for the tantalizing tidbit that she used to lead ghost tours in Savannah), and almost nothing about her private life. She doesn't actually have many private moments, since the action is constant and she is nearly always interacting with another character. The development of her feelings for Trey is also given short shrift. In spite of this, I did find the mystery both enjoyable and sufficiently complex, and since I liked what I learned of Tai, Trey, Garrity and Rico, I look forward to seeing how this "girl detective," as Tai refers to herself, manages to find herself in the middle of her next mystery.
This review is from the February 3, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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