“Davis Way thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she lands a job as the fifth wheel on an elite security team at the fabulous Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. But once there, she runs straight into her ex-ex husband, a rigged slot machine, her evil twin, and a trail of dead bodies. Davis learns the truth and it does not set her free—in fact, it lands her in the pokey.
Buried under a mistaken identity, unable to seek help from her family, her hot streak runs cold until her landlord Bradley Cole steps in. Make that her landlord, lawyer, and love interest. With his help, Davis must win this high stakes game before her luck runs out.”
In this, her debut novel, Gretchen Archer brings us a “new to the block” amateur detective in the same vein as Stephanie Plum and, for us Aussies, Erica Jewell, introducing us to Davis Way from Pine Apple, Alabama (yes, seriously)!
Davis has had a run of bad luck lately. A former police officer in Pine Apple (with two degrees behind her name, one in Criminal Justice and the other in Computer and Information Science), she’s found herself unemployed and down on her luck. Ready to take her sister’s advice and get out of town to make a fresh start, away from her mother (who sends her eviction notices when she’s late on her rent), she finds herself in Biloxi, Mississippi.
With her no-good ex-ex-husband, Eddie Crawford – yes, she married him twice – frequenting Biloxi himself, she’s hoping that it’s big enough to prevent them bumping into each other. After all, it’s taken her every dime she had to divorce him (again), and he’s lucky he’s alive.
However, she has no idea what she’s letting herself in for when she finds herself applying for the same job at the Bellissimo Casino fifty times, and finally landing the job as their in-house investigator. Her job description – to figure out who is winning all the money on one of their gambling machines as well as the modus operandi. Not that she knew that when she signed the “phone book”!
A few days into the job, poor Davis seems to be in over her head when she discovers (thanks to her two new friends Mary and Maxine) exactly who it is that’s winning all the money and hastily decides that it’s in everyone’s best interests to resign. Unfortunately, her employer has bad news! The employment agreement she signed, “the phone book”? Well, it says she has to work for them for ninety days or pay back all the money they’ve spent on placing her, including that which she’s lavishly spent on her new life. For the first time in her life, her clothing and shoes are expensive, her living and work environment luxurious and the drinks are flowing – well, who else does the money in the bag they gave her and what she wins on the slots belong to? On top of that, with the hefty wage she’s being paid, she might just be able to get her finances back in the black and move into an apartment where there are no prying eyes.
Along with her unfortunate colleagues “Teeth” and “No Hair” and the surly taxi driver, George, who always seems to be the only one on the block, frequently providing her with unwanted advice, Davis soon finds herself in more pickles than she can handle. From being ensconced in the lap of luxury, then hovering over an endless succession of toilets in a maid’s uniform to casino host assistant, the dead bodies suddenly begin to pile up, and it’s not long before she finds herself in the clanger, accused of attempted murder. Unfortunately, her new persona doesn’t allow for her to contact her family but thankfully, her love interest and landlord, Bradley Cole, comes to her rescue after she makes the one phone call she is allowed and together they try and figure out the complexities of the case.
It’s taken me a while to get this one to the top of my reading pile and I’m so glad it eventually got there because Gretchen Archer has created a sassy, witty and engaging character in Davis Way who I could so easily relate to. Written in first person from the point of view of Davis, this gives the reader greater insight into her motivations as well as justification for her actions, as she speaks to us in a conversational manner whilst sharing her innermost thoughts and memories using snappy humour and a few doses of sarcasm.
Gretchen’s writing style is relaxed and easy and makes for fast-paced reading as we turn the pages in anticipation of solving the mystery alongside Davis. She also nails one of the elements of fiction down to a tee – that of showing and not telling. I was really quite in awe of her writing and would like to share a few examples with you:
“I gave them a nervous smile, crossed the quiet room, and stepped outside, where I was met by a blast of winter. January only looks like June on the Mississippi coastline. The difference is the icy, wet wind whipping off the Gulf, and this entrance to the Bellissimo was two feet from it.”
“Shoulders back, wig held high, I made my way through the middle of the casino. I had three cell phones riding inside leather on my right hip; their weight and placement reminded me, as my sister had earlier on the phone, of my pistol-packing days. Meredith had grown up at mother’s knee, learning how to sift stuff. I had cut my teeth on my father’s lap, learning how to keep a gun oiled. And it was a good thing that the bag was full of AT&T and not Smith & Wesson, because one of them went off.”
“The next ten minutes of my life are a blur. I got a hold of the grip, only intent to scoot it out of the way, but honestly, I couldn’t help myself. I hefted it up, groaned with pleasure at the cold, hard defense of it, immediately dropped into a Weaver stance, trained in on an imaginary bad guy across the dark room, and putting about as much pressure on the trigger as a cotton ball would, blew a new door into [the] otherwise solid wall.”
“She looked at me as if my last marble had just rolled out of my head, across the floor and out of the building.”
“We stepped over to a thick bundle of multi-colored cables coming out of a steel box that I couldn’t have wrapped my arms around.”
Entertaining and light-hearted with an original twist that Gretchen doesn’t reveal until she’s ready, this is a great addition to the cozy-mystery sub-genre and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, Double Dip which was released in January 2014. The third in the series, Double Strike, is due to be released by her publisher, Henery Press, on the 21st October 2014.
I wish to thank Claire McKinney PR for providing me with a hard copy of this side-splitting novel.
A Little About the Author
Gretchen Archer is a Tennessee housewife who began writing when her daughters, seeking higher educations, ran off and left her.
She lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, son, and a Yorkie named Bently.
Double Whammy, her first Davis Way crime caper, is a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist and hit the USA TODAY bestsellers list.