Series: Sunshine Vicram #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on July 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff--and even fuller-time coffee guzzler--Sunshine Vicram, didn't get that memo.
All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that's about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)
Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny's got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he's not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She's seen it. Once. Accidentally.
Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn't know when to quit, Sunny's life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.
Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.
Be prepared. You are going to need a box of tissues…and possibly a box of wine to get through this story.
Sheriff Sunshine Vicram felt good this morning when everything in her town seemed to be going quite well. At least it was going well while she was drinking her morning coffee. Ah, what a blissful five minutes.
But since this morning’s caffeinated zen wore off she has been set up on another horrible blind date by her mother with a man who is either completely clueless to Sunshine’s lack of interest or is practicing to become a stalker because he is there every time she turns around. Each of these recent blind dates are getting worse and worse and Sunshine is beginning to wonder what she must have done to her mother to warrant this much punishment.
Sunshine’s BFF, Quincy is attempting to recruit a raccoon as his new partner-in-petty-crimes and while they could use another officer, she isn’t sure the little masked trash panda is the best choice. Then again, maybe she can put him on the search for the Dangerous Daughters, the mythical founding women who secretly run this town, which the mayor keeps insisting isn’t an urban legend and she wants Sunshine to bring them down.
Sunshine then gets a note from a guest of the State, one Wynn Ravinder, uncle of Sunshine’s life-long crush Levi Ravender, currently doing time for murder. Wynn indicating that he needed to see her because he has information about her abduction and who killed his brother, Kubrick. Which is very interesting as it seems at last count 14 other people have come forward to confess that they were responsible for stabbing Kubrick. This pisses Quincy off since he bet the confessions would top out at 13.
Speaking of, it has also become disturbingly stabby around town starting with a man getting viciously stabbed outside of Levi’s bar, and Levi getting hit by a truck as the perpetrators flee. Of course, Mr. Macho refuses to go to the hospital and disappears when Sun tries to force him. Levi won’t respond to her calls because he is avoiding her…or because he is dying somewhere? Well, that’s some extra helping of whipped stress to add to her crazy pie. But what Sun can’t figure out is how this stabbing has anything to do with her only unsolved kidnapping case from five years ago, since that missing kid suddenly shows up in her town. And why are there men watching the station waiting to see what Sunshine and her officers are up to? Is this about the stabbing victim or the missing person? Or are they just tourists who want to know where’s the best place to get donuts?
And if a five year old missing person case isn’t weird enough, her daughter Aurora is determined to prove that tiny, meek Mrs. Fairborn is a serial killer responsible for the series of missing people some thirty years ago, and she has dragged her friends into it for a little juvenile B&E. Good thing her mom’s the Sheriff.
I love the characters that Darynda Jones has created in this series and the irreverent humor she blesses them with. Sunshine appears to be clueless and a bit flaky, but always proves that she has been paying attention all along, even more than the readers. I love the bond between Sunshine and her daughter Aurora; as well as Sunshine and Quincy, who prove why they are such perfect BFFs. And I am absolutely stealing their box wine reference of cardordeaux.
We even get somewhere with Sunshine and Levi’s romance, even though he seems to spend most of his time avoiding Sunshine. Hopefully, we work on their love life a little more in the next story.
We do get many answers to things which were introduced to us in Book 1, which is very nice–especially since they went along with my guesses–including what happened to Sunshine during her abduction when she was 17. And I wasn’t kidding when I said to make sure the tissues are handy. We have a lot of fun, as we do in any Darynda Jones book, but bad things happen too and not everyone is going to make it home.
While we get lots of changes and lot of answers, this series is far from over and I am very excited about that news.
I love these mother/daughter talks…
Sun had noticed. Auri’s swollen, red-rimmed eyes said it all. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I hate that you saw Levi like that.”
“I hate the he was like that at all.” Her breath hitched, crushing Sun. “Why does he have to be so brave? He could’ve been killed.”
“I don’t know. He’s Levi, for one thing, and the man who was attacked was a good friend of his.”
“He didn’t take even us into account.”
“Us?” Sun asked.
“Yes. What would happen to us if he’d been killed? Did he think of that? No. Of course not. And do you know why?”
It was apparently a rhetorical question; Auri continued before Sun could guess.
“Because he’s a guy. With a penis. Penises are stupid.”
Sun tried not to giggle. “Yes, they are. Penises are very stupid. I don’t want you to ever forget that.”
“I won’t. Don’t you worry.”
Sun had to wonder what Auri’s crush, Cruz, had done to cause such penis-aversion. She’d have to thank him. He probably bought her at least another year before her daughter experimented with the opposite sex.
“I have to make a quick trip to a prison near Phoenix, bug. I’ll be back tomorrow night.”
“Can I come?”
“No,” she said with a laugh. “You need to get some rest. We’ll talk about your impromptu trip to an active crime scene when I get back.”
“I can’t fall asleep.” She propped herself up onto an elbow to give Sun the full effect of the pout she’d perfected by the time she was two. “Pot’s just not doing it for me anymore. I’m going to have to try heroin.”
Masterful deflection. Then again, she did learn from the best. “Now, Auri, we’ve talked about this. Heroin is a gateway drug. Try cutting back on the coke first, okay?”
“Mom,” she whined and threw herself back onto the bed.
“I mean it. Two lines a day. Three at the most.”
“Fine. I’ll cut back.” She rolled back up and batter her dark lashes. “Then can we discuss heroin?”
Sun tucked a strand of glistening hair behind her ear. “I promise.”
“Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.” She threw her arms around her, then said, “Safe journey.”
“Thank you, sweet pea. Now get some sleep.”
Auri snuggled beneath the covers. Sun kissed the top of the hellion’s head, then stood to find her mother hovering in the doorway, frowning, with her arms crossed over the chest.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Heroin?” she asked, her tone admonishing.
She brushed past the older woman, and said, “Better heroin than angel dust, if you ask me.”
“Everything I touch turns delinquent.”
“Don’t touch my bills, then.” Sun headed to the living room to find her dad raiding the fridge in his pajamas.
He looked past the bright light he’d been bathed in. “Hey, sweet pea.”
“Hey, Dad. I’ll be back by tomorrow night.”
He gave the room a furtive glance, leaned close, and said softly, “Okay, but try to get back early.”
Guilt twisted her gut into a knot. She had been relying on her parents a lot lately. Too much. “Of course. I’m sorry, Dad. This whole sheriff gig…the hours are longer than I expected. So much paperwork.”
“Please.” He snorted and waved away her misgivings. “You know we love having the dumpling here. It’s just that tomorrow night is date night–“
She pressed her palm to her heart. “That’s so sweet.”
“–and your mother has discovered gay manga.”
“Oh, my God.”
“I don’t know what that is, but our love life has never been better. I’d hate for the little redhead to catch onto the fact that her grandparents still have sex, but I can only hold the woman off for so long.”
“I can’t believe I grew up for this.”
He took her hand into his. “How is he?”
The hand he held shook involuntarily, so she pulled it back. “He’ll be okay. I think. I don’t know. He escaped before we could find out for sure.”
He pulled her into a hug. “He’s something else, that one.”
Understatement of the century. “Yes, he is. Don’t let Mom touch my bills while I’m gone. Auri would die if our internet got shut off for a late payment.”
“You got it, kid.”
“Also,” she said as her mother walked in, “could you guys check in on Auri for the next hour or so. I know it’s late, but–“
“Of course, we can,” her mother said. “She was so upset, Sunny.”
“I know. And that’s partly why I want you to keep an eye on her.”
“Partly?” her dad asked.
“Yes. I mostly want you to check in on her because she has a boy in her room.”
The gasp that overtook her mother was a long, drawn-out thing that almost had Sun doubling over. When her mother turned to rush into Auri’s room, Sun grabbed her hand. “It’s okay, Mom. Tonight, she needed a shoulder to cry on. I get that. And I trust Cruz. I do, but if you could just make sure he, you know, leaves in the next little bit? That would be great.”
Her dad sank onto a stool at the snack bar. “Were we this oblivious when you were growing up?”
Sun snorted. “Dad, you were in military intelligence. I was lucky to make eye contact with a boy without you noticing.”