Dunne, April 2004, 23.95, 304 pp.
Attorney Avery Andrews worked for a large influential law firm in the low country of South Carolina until one day she snapped while questioning her own witness on the stand. The two got into a shouting match, the judge called a mistrial, and the firm settled out of court. Naturally Avery is fired so she returns to her hometown of Dacus in the hill country to figure out what she is going to do. She temporarily works out of the office of the town's only lawyers, picking up cases that nobody else wants or those the court assigns.
The town's biggest employer Garnet Mills hires Avery to handle environmental inspections. She quickly picks up that they are looking for something specific and asks the inspector to come back with a warrant which he does. They are looking for illegally dumped hazardous waste but before they can get very far in their investigation, someone torches the factory and tries to burn the accounting books. A dead body is found in the wreckage and Avery loses her best paying client. She works on her own time trying to figure out who was behind the arson, never realizing that her actions will lead to an unsolved twenty year old homicide.
This humorous regional mystery won the Malice Domestic Award for First Novel and it is easy to read why. The eccentric southern small town characters are believable while the pace is fast and the transitions smooth. Avery finds herself in some bizarre situations thanks to her unusual clients but she perseveres in spite of many setbacks. She is a very likable heroine and readers will eagerly await the next book in this refreshingly original series.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner