BookBrowse Reviews Nine Days by Minerva Koenig

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Nine Days

A Mystery

by Minerva Koenig

Nine Days by Minerva Koenig X
Nine Days by Minerva Koenig
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  • Published:
    Sep 2014, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Nine Days, Minerva Koenig's debut, introduces Julia Kalas as an intriguing new heroine in crime fiction.

Wow. That's what I thought as I finished the last page of Ms Koenig's terrific mystery, Nine Days. My next thought: How the heck did I get here? Not because it's an implausible ending. No, sirree. Not only is it a very plausible ending to a delightfully twisty, turny, blind-alley-filled story, but it hints at the beginning of a beautiful friendship between an unlikely but literarily scintillating duo. No spoilers, though. And don't peek. Read the book from page one to the very end, and enjoy the ride. Okay. I'm gushing. You want details.

Julia Kalas is a rat, but in a good way. In exchange for relocation and a new identity under the federal government's witness protection program (WITSEC), she blew the whistle on the Aryan Brotherhood guys who killed her gun-dealing husband. So she is relocated – under the brand new Julia Kalas identity – to Azula, Texas, population in the range of 5k, give or take. She's there as the "Boston friend" of Azula Police Chief Teresa Hallstedt, heretofore referred to as "the Amazon" by Julia. She is supposedly the only person in town privy to Julia's WITSEC status. Supposedly.

Unless her new boss, Hector Guerra, counts. He owns the tavern where Julia is going to tend bar. Okay, that's two. But the Amazon explains she could hardly expect Hector to hire somebody with no background without a good explanation. Naturally Julia is peeved. And she remains peeved for a hot 30 seconds until she lays eyes on Hector. "I got a load of the details: long black hair, big dark eyes, Aztec nose, delicious mouth. The man was gorgeous." And there is chemistry. Cool.

It's even cooler because Koenig has created a real woman. Julia is smart. Pre-WITSEC, she had her own house flipping business. Sure, she laundered her felon husband's gun running money through it. But still, she's a woman who knows her way around sheetrock, roof tiles and profit/loss statements. She's savvy. You don't hang around with felons without a certain amount of street smarts rubbing off. She's outspoken. "I love it when guys look at me…like I'd just grown a second, freakishly intelligent head." And she's got a real woman's figure. "Plus sizes are in the back," a shop owner says as Julia is browsing merchandise. "Great, another segregationist, I muttered…I meant the clothes…The bigger sizes are the same styles as all the other stuff, so why do they need their own section?...Nobody likes being shoved to the back of the bus." Did I mention she's outspoken?

Gotta love her. At least I do. Because Koenig portrays her with all the same respect as other authors portray her skinnier fictional peers. By that I mean that, generally speaking, when large sized people are portrayed in books (or TV or movies) they are often food obsessed, lazily indulging in doughnuts or dipping into giant tubs of ice cream. I mean, who really does that in real life? Julia thinks about food far less often than she thinks about sex, and with far less relish. V.I. Warshawski eats more than Julia Kalas. Just sayin'.

When Julia notices that downtown Azula has a number of vacant vintage buildings she's intrigued. And she's thinking that as long as she has to be here anyway she may as well take advantage of the town's ample opportunities to return to her rehabbing/flipping career. This time on the legit, of course. Plus it's a better fit than bartending. Except something fishy turns up when she starts researching public property records.

That plan gets put on the back burner when the Amazon is found murdered, on the roof of Hector's bar building, within easy access to his second floor apartment. And what with longstanding, but unsubstantiated, rumors of a love affair between Hector and the Amazon, well, it looks to county Sheriff Maines like an open-and-shut case. Of course Julia can't let it lie. So her amateur sleuthing skills kick in. And buckle up, as they say, dear reader. It's definitely gonna be a bumpy – thrilling – ride, all the way to its surprise ending.

Koenig had me hooked from page one. I read all the way to page 283 in one sitting. As far as the promise of more Julia Kalas books to come? Sign me up!

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the November 5, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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