Just read some of the reviews so far:
Sometimes the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions. That is the motto of most of the characters in Stranger: A Death Valley Mystery. The good intentions of Police Detective Will Stellar leads him down a path he will never recover from, and the good intentions of sibling Ric and Alex Delgado makes their quiet life more frantic. Stranger, the second novel by Melissa M. Garcia, starts off with a dead body in a motel, and the book twist and turns until it is full of more red herrings than a Seattle fish market. Garcia uses a unique blend of movement and dialogue from each person in the book and gives everyone a personality, a soul, and a hint of life.That realness helps in making almost anyone a killer, and it left me guessing until the very end.
Another intriguing device used by Garcia is the use of the “whydoit?” Many times, a crime novel cares more about the mysterious “who” and the killer’s identity. In Stranger, we get a refreshing new outlook on how important the motive is to a crime. Any two-bit hood with a gun can be a killer, because murder is an effect. The book wants you to care about the cause, and the importance of each character. With the skill of a painter, Garcia creates beautiful and soulful players for her play. At the end, I was as conflicted about the real killer as was Detective Stellar. Another thing that worked was the theme and how each person was dealing with the same problem in different ways. Everyone had a similar conflict of family over duty. This is a mystery novel done right and is as enjoyable as a cool drink on those hot desert nights.
*Originally published for San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review*
Every mystery has its dark secrets, but the best ones reveal them with a kind of perverse, teasing finesse. And author Melissa M. Garcia does so deftly in Stranger, her second mystery.
Ex-con Alex Delgado and her brother Ric have fled Los Angeles for a new start in the small, gritty town of Lake City, Nevada, safely removed from the disturbing memories and unhealed wounds of their past. Their sanctuary is the Death Valley Motel, the dog-eared roadside motel they run together, comfortable in their anonymity at the edge of civilization.
So when an aging ex-L.A. gang-banger’s corpse is found on the bloody floor of Room 110 at their hard-luck desert motel, a fresh dead guy is the last thing the Delgados need. And their anxiety proves to be caused by something deeper and darker than expensive carpet cleaning and bad press.
They’re not alone. Soon it appears that everyone in Lake City is hiding something – even the squared-away detective who catches the case. And in the closed room of a small town, everybody is a suspect – including the Delgados, whose entangled pasts prove to be both a curse and a blessing.
This sinister mix of secrets, longing and murder underlies Garcia’s tightly crafted story. You can taste the dust and feel the prickle of desert heat as a nicely tangled plot propels you deeper into the case.
Stranger evokes some of the best elements of Rick Riordan’s popular Tres Navarre mystery series before he abandoned crime writing for young-adult mythologizing. Garcia has delivered well-developed characters, strong dialogue and a scrupulously plotted yarn that propels the reader forward without too many distracting detours. The plentiful plot twists are never befuddling and readers are likely to keep guessing right up to the last page.
*Originally published for Blue Ink Reviews*
“Stranger” by Melissa M. Garcia is the fictional story of Ric and Alex Delgado, a brother and sister duo who manage a motel in “the middle of nowhere.” Escaping their former lives they settle where there is likely to be no trouble, but a dead body interrupts their new quiet life. A stranger’s death is just the type of crime that never happens in this small town, and everyone has a theory.
Detective Stellar and his team of officers work to solve the murder while Alex and Ric have their own ideas. Crossing paths with each other, additional lives are put in jeopardy.
“Stranger” is a good book. I really enjoyed reading it. The murder isn’t too intense. There aren’t too many characters. There isn’t too much intrigue with twists and turns. However, the characters are well-crafted and likable. Alex is a tough, damaged young woman, but she’s smart, and I found myself rooting for her even as a suspect. Ric is the protective older brother, and as is often true in real life, they both underestimate each other. Detective Stellar plays a pivotal role as the small town police officer whose personal life interferes with the investigation.
The plot contained in “Stranger” is enough to keep the reader guessing until the end. I wanted to read to the end, and I cared about the characters. I hope Ms. Garcia will continue to write as her stories are engaging and entertaining.
*Originally published for Reader Views*
ABOUT THE BOOK:
There is a dead body in room 110 of the Death Valley Motel, and the evidence points to murder. Managers Ric and Alex Delgado, siblings with police work in their blood, chose this small Death Valley city specifically because it appeared to be a quiet place in which Alex could heal from the violent traumas of her past. Now a killer has struck too close to Alex, opening old wounds and threatening her new life.
The situation gets more complicated when Detective Will Stellar trains his observant eye on the siblings and ascertains they have something to hide. Murder seems to follow Alex Delgado, and Detective Stellar is certain she is a dangerous woman. Racing against time and against each other, the Delgados and Detective Stellar risk their lives to uncover the truth, which is ever more complicated and dangerous than any of them have imagined.