By Alan Chaput
Vigilantes for Justice #1
Falcon Press, 2017
Though born to heirloom pearls, designer dresses and lush garden parties, Savannah social icon Patricia Falcon and three of her closest friends spend their days in Savannah's dark side rescuing abused women.
When Patricia's darling mother, a prominent philanthropist, drops dead, and the police are baffled by her untimely death. Patricia recruits her three friends to help her investigate what she believes is murder.
Savannah Sleuth is a page-turning journey from Savannah's Southern wealth and grace into the hidden corners of Savannah and across two continents in a deadly pursuit of justice.
I love the South that I live in and have always been drawn to southern fiction, which is why I wanted to read Savannah Sleuth. Alan Chaput is certainly a fresh new voice in the field of murder mysteries and I loved his skillful writing. This is a little darker and more suspenseful than traditional cozies, but it’s very well written and I had a hard time putting it down. The narrative is broken into short segments that made it easy to keep going. However, I’m going to say up front that the only thing I didn’t care for was the use of profanity and an intimate scene or two – elements that detracted from an otherwise great story for me.
The characters are well-drawn and so very interesting. Savannah Sleuth centers around four strong women - Patricia, Judy, Meredith, and Alisa. Desiring to be much more than ladies of privilege and wealth, these friends come together to help local women suffering from spousal abuse. This is another aspect that drew me to the story, but it really doesn’t come into play much, with the exception of the opening scene. Would love to see a much greater emphasis on this in future stories.
I have visited Savannah a couple of times and have to say that the author is so very right on target, conveying the city so vividly and realistically that it becomes a major character. Southern culture and charm is off the charts, so well done that I frequently couldn’t help but smile. Here’s one example of a ladies’ bridge club that I can’t resist sharing …
Established in the 1890’s, the bridge club was an umbilical cord to the past…. And, as a group, they wielded immense political and economic power in Savannah. Power measured by social action rather than social standing. Power measured by cunning rather than coyness. Each woman possessed more confidence than an alligator stalking lunch, and just as much patience.
There’s complexity to this story, both in characterization and subplots. Patricia Falcon is a compelling lady, and the more I learned of her, the more I wanted to know. Her husband, Trey, is a member of the Cotton Coalition, a secret society that protects all that is Savannah, past and future. I have no idea if such a club even exists, but would not be surprised to find that it did.
Other elements add even more depth – a homeless man seeking information about his parentage and a priest’s involvement on behalf of the Vatican. The murderer could have literally been anyone, and I was never sure who to trust, making for suspenseful reading. A few loose ends pave the way for the next story, Savannah Secrets, releasing in March.
Alan Chaput is a skilled, creative writer who knows how to spin a story, and Savannah Sleuth holds a lot of appeal for mystery fans. I enjoyed the story overall, with the caveat mentioned above, and would like to read more.
I received a copy of this book through the Cozy Mystery Review Crew. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Al writes Southern mysteries. His novels have finaled in the Daphne and the Claymore.
Al lives with his wife in Coastal South Carolina. When not writing, Al can be found Shag dancing, pursuing genealogy, or interacting on social media.
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