every single time with this series.
there are some authors whose books i look forward to the way i look forward to a meal at a favorite restaurant (i mean, from what i can remember of life before the plague). i can always count on them to satisfy me, and even though i know what i’m gonna get and that i’m gonna like it, it always comes with a *pop* of pleasant surprise because so very few things in this life are consistently enjoyable. consistently disappointing i have come to expect, but consistently good? it’s a rare treat.
this is the fourth roxane weary book, and it’s always difficult reviewing titles waist-deep into a series: if you’re a newbie, you’ll be confused by any but the most basic detail, and if you’re already initiated, you know how great these books are and you don’t need me being your huckleberry through any of this.
so, as a general review of the series, and continuing this food train of thought ‘cuz i’m hungry, i will review this series as pizza. pizza is a pretty straightforward food: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings, whatever. whether you’re a thin-cruster or a thick-cruster or a vegan with your cheese substitute or what have you, it doesn’t matter right now—regardless of your specific preferences (all of which are valid unless you’re a filthy olive-lover), the basic components of a pizza are immutable. and yet, despite being made up of the same essential building blocks, you’ve probably eaten enough pizza in your life to know that there is good pizza and bad pizza. sometimes a pizza isn’t baked all the way through, and it’ll be bland lump sitting in your gut all night. sometimes it’ll be some misguided fancypants attempt to make pizza more posh than it ought to be—with AND I QUOTE: fresh mozzarella cheese, gorgonzola fondue, speck trentino alto adige d.o.p., balsamic glaze, toasted walnuts, which FINE, that sounds really good, but i’m never going to feel okay paying $6.50 for a tiny-ass slice of—i hesitate to even call it pizza—so you can take your acronyms walking, pizza collective. soggy crust, too-acidic sauce, not enough cheese, NOT ENOUGH CHEESE, pitted all over with grease pools—there are many ways a pizza can go wrong. and sometimes, if you’re drunk enough or it’s the only option, it doesn’t matter and you’ll shove that crappy pizza in your face. but you know where the best pizza in your town is, and even if you occasionally have to settle for a second-place pie due to rival pizza factions in your house, you know what pizza sparks joy, which pizza feels like home.
AND THAT IS WHAT THIS SERIES IS TO ME!
because even though it is made up of the same basic ingredients as other mysteries: crimes, investigations, clues, conflicts, a private eye asking nosy questions, kristen lepionka is just doing it so much better than other writers. every time. i trust her, and i trust roxane because they have never let me down, not ever. these books feel less like reading the adventures of an invented character than they feel like you’re peeling back some corner of the world, falling through and watching everything unfold. her plotting is tight, the investigative avenues are logical, conclusions feel natural and earned, without any flashy bullshit. it’s not predictable, but it is reasonable—the storytelling is confident and feels (although i know it’s a shitty, shitty word) effortless. in the mystery genre, there’s a more pronounced divide between character-driven and plot-driven books, and fewer authors try to pull off both simultaneously. tana french is one of the best of ’em, but so is kristen lepionka. roxane changes and grows with her experiences, although she’s still someone who says ”Ew” when her significant other tells her they missed her. even the supporting, recurring cast evolves throughout the series. for example, maybe this is the book where you’ll come around on matt and think he’s an okay guy after all. it could happen.
in conclusion: pizza.
P.S. TIL that “ho toy” is the name of an actual restaurant in ohio and not (or not exclusively, anyway) something for greg’s mom.
too many shitty things got in the way of me writing a review for this before pub day, but i want to celebrate its book birthday anyway.
BUY THIS BOOK, GUYS!!! THIS SERIES ROCKS!!!
another EXCEPTIONALLY SATISFYING roxane weary novel. must ride out contented afterglow before i review. so few pleasures these days…