Emily Dernal left her paralegal job with a prestigious law firm in Dallas, and returned to her hometown, Amarillo, when her husband, Rich, dumped her for a cross dresser, on the night she was planning to tell him she was pregnant. Now back home, in a big town or a small city depending upon how you view it, she has to contend with an overly religious mother, the unending gossip that is every small town’s bread and butter, and what to do with her life. When she meets Jack Holden, a criminal lawyer who dresses like a cowboy and who gets her juices flowing—positively and negatively at the same time. It doesn’t help that she’s back to attend the wedding of her old high school flame—to someone else—and the body of Spike Howard plummets from a balcony to the pool, right in the middle of the reception.
Sophia, a hotel maid, is seen on the balcony still holding the gun, and when she’s arrested, she admits to the crime. Jack is appointed her public defender, and he hires Emily temporarily as his paralegal to help him with the case as well as other cases that he’s been forced to handle alone. Things get even more complicated when they learn that Sophia is an illegal immigrant, and that her daughter is missing. When Sophia is suspiciously killed during a jailhouse altercation, Emily is certain that this is more than a simple homicide. Something far more sinister is afoot, and it seems that she’s the only one to realize it, or want to do anything about it.
Emily takes an interest in the missing girl, to Jack’s dismay, and despite her pregnancy, dives headfirst into finding her.
Heavens to Betsy by Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a fast-paced, chilling, funny mystery that follows Emily as she dodges bad guys, tries to learn more about her enigmatic, and irritating boss, and settle her chaotic personal life. The characters are so real you can smell their sweat, and the setting is typically West Texas, dust storms and unpredictable weather and all. If you’re one of those people who think of West Texas as just cowboys and arid flatland, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the rich diversity as described by an author who knows the region intimately.
Hutchins has hit a home run with this one—to Texas football fans, I apologize for the baseball metaphor, but that’s how I see it. Oh, and I give her five stars for this one.