Monday, April 4, 2011

PEARL by Darlene Cox

Sheriff Jon Atherton of Faircloth, Virginia, has been having an affair with Pearl Sutton. Now she's been murdered. He was probably the next-to-last person to see her alive. Jon's right-hand man, first Deputy Tom Fogerty, also had an encounter with Pearl the day before. Deputy Wallace Aiken is a religious fanatic with an eye for detail and has an even darker secret than his two colleagues. What I liked about this book is that it's refreshingly straightforward. I didn't miss the usual red herrings or the dodging of the truth by all the law enforcement agents. Early on, Tom and Jon admit to each other their relationships with Pearl, whose marriage, by the way, is not what it seems—another nugget that the author reveals early in the novel. In fact, Tom and Jon are no saints, but they're good at their jobs, and this book, although a murder mystery, is more about how they go about solving a crime—2 crimes, actually. In this sleepy little town, another young woman has turned up dead. Now Jon and Tom don't know if they're looking for one murderer or two or which is the lesser of two evils. I found it interesting that the reader already knows who committed the second murder. This was a nice touch in that we get to deduce who murdered Pearl, while at the same time watch Tom and Jon follow leads toward reaching the correct conclusion about the second murder. This dual story line gives us the best of both worlds, at least where murder mysteries are concerned, and also saddens us with the story of Jon's personal regret for what his relationship with Pearl could have been, had he only been privy to her secret.

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