The Trouble with Murder (Zoe Grey, Book 1)

Read:  2015

Author:  Catherine Nelson

Published:  2013

Genre:  Mystery

Pages:  480 (paperback)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s Score:  Scoring Great Book

Zoe Grey is between jobs, between boyfriends, and between crises.  Things seem to be looking up.  Until all she’s looking at is trouble.  Before she knows it, witnessing a brutal stabbing leads to a dead guy living in her room, and a target on her back.  Then she lands herself smack in the middle of Detective Ellman’s homicide.  Now Zoe must stay ahead of those who want her dead and chase down her answers while working around Ellman.  As her determination to find justice for an innocent victim drives on, she can feel the heat from the bullets fling in her direction.  No stranger to trouble, Zoe just might find herself in over her head this time.” – from the Amazon summary.

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Lady Esbe’s Review

I was in the mood for a quick read mystery.  This book pretty much hit the spot.  Zoe isn’t your typical heroine.  She’s not a trained (to our knowledge) tactician, nor a trained investigator and she is especially not beautiful in the sense that many authors feel it is necessary for the heroine to be drop dead gorgeous (as we often hear projected mostly from characters around the heroine in other novels).  When we meet Zoe, she is a real estate agent with a classic truck, living in a home she purchased for her mother, moreso her brother, with several tenants.   By her own account: she competent, resourceful and troubled.  She’s painfully self-aware but not annoyingly so.

After finding herself happening upon a young woman being brutally attacked, Zoe springs into action.  No thought, just reaction of intervening and then chasing off the attacker.  From there, Zoe falls down the rabbit hole of police ineptitude, possible conspiracy and just her luck going from bad to worse.  Let me say, that in light of all the very publicized police mishaps in recent months, I do respect those who attempt to protect us (caveat: those who attempt to protect, not those who abuse their station), Zoe experiences the subtle, eh, not so subtle railroading of the police.  She finds an ally in Detective Ellman, who becomes more than a man investigating the initial attack that Zoe broke up, but also a confidant, friend, and lover.  However the remaining policemen she comes in contact with are less than scrupulous and the fact she does their job for them multiple times is inane.  For example, she is looking for leads about the initial attack and comes across a criminal in the victim’s circle that is on the most wanted list.  She, an untrained civilian, is able to bluff her way into locating him, not once but thrice.  Each time, she called the unmanned tip line, only for him to slip away before the police arrive.  Yet again, she’s not the trained detective.  Why is she competent enough to figure this out and not the trained professionals?  Natural talent and sheer grit are her best allies.

While the plot seemed circuitous and like quite a bit kept happening to cause Zoe to fall into more peril, it was made evident at the end why these circumstances befell her.  Zoe comes from a broken home and has some very dark things in her past.  She does have daddy issues, but she only contemplates them ever so often and to explain her current state of relationship between her mother and brother and her proclivity to use firearms.  While Zoe’s father wanted a son, he did teach Zoe all the “boy” type things, such as riding a motorcycle, the art of self-defense and gun handling skills.  This serves her well, when her vehicle becomes inoperable two third of the book and she insists on riding a scooter.  Who can take a person riding a scooter seriously or as a threat?  But Zoe continues to prove that she just doesn’t care.  Motivated by the need to know why the young woman was attacked and then subsequently, earning the $15,000 reward for locating the girl’s criminal boyfriend, to uncovering who exactly is pursing Zoe and attempting to kill her on multiple occasions, the story moves right along.

Zoe reminds me of one of my favorite characters, Mercy Thompson, minus the supernatural aspect of the Mercy Thompson Series.  I enjoy that the female character does not rely on men to save her.  Actually, I enjoy that she doesn’t rely on anyone to save her.  She is headstrong and makes it a point to do most things on her own and attempt to protect those she cares about.  I also enjoy that while she and Ellman become close, she doesn’t allow him to “save her”.  She needs backup and he provides it, but she is more than capable of taking care of herself and her issues.  The only “issues” that she is unwilling to confront head-on is with her mother; whether that is out of respect or understanding for her mother’s “illness”, Zoe is a picture of belligerent patience with her mother and brother.  I do like that the entire time I was reading I was thinking “why isn’t she a private investigator or even an undercover agent of some sort”, because she has the innate ability to manipulate (in a good way) and investigate.  It was no surprise by the end of the novel that Ellman, having seen first-hand, her ability to track, investigate, and defend herself, suggests that she become a bounty hunter.  Unlike Rachel Morgan, I don’t feel bad when Zoe goes off and tries to handle things on her own.  This is the way she is built and she doesn’t need to be “saved” like one Rachel Morgan.

I gotta say, I quite enjoyed the book.  I would definitely read the author again.  Unfortunately, while I enjoyed it, it doesn’t gain more than 4 cups from me.  I wish I felt it was a 5 cupper, but it’s definitely not Justin Cronin (yeah, I bring him up a lot because that man can write!).  I look forward to reading the next installment of Zoe’s misadventures.

Esbe read the Kindle version of this book.

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