Kristen Lepionka’s Roxanne Weary series is one of my favorites to come along in recent years. This could be me dating myself as a end-of-the-spectrum millennial but Roxanne feels like someone I would know. And Kristen Lepionka gets her voice and atmosphere down well.
This one is in some ways an improvement on book one, though I liked that one too. I don’t know why, especially because there wasn’t a Macguffin, but I got a real Maltese Falcon vibe from this story. It could have been the underworld elements or the deception of the characters but the feel of Hammett looms large over this tale.
Lepionka’s style is nothing like Hammett and we’re all the better for it. In the 80s and 90s, when the next generation of PI/detective fiction was published, a lot of folks tried to ape Chandler and Hammett in terms of snarky dialogue. It annoys the hell out of me. The newer generation has somewhat shed this skin and sticks to simple prose with fewer cliches.
And what I also like about Lepionka is when she does buy into cliches, such as having her protagonist drink too much and having an unsteady love life, she doesn’t lose sight of making Roxanne feel like a fully realized person. These aren’t tropes added for sympathy; they instead help to give a full picture of who Roxanne Weary is in all her imperfect glory. She’s not a super sleuth who ignores her inner demons. She’s a blue collar hump like the rest of us just trying to get through the day. Only sometimes, that day involves murder.
Seems like Lepionka is putting out one of these a year. To which I say: awesome.