Monday, January 8, 2018

What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix: Reading Room Review

What Doesn't Kill You is Aimee Hix's debut novel, but if you didn't know that, you'd be hard pressed to realize it. This novel reads as smooth and seasoned as the middle of a series, not the beginning. I was fortunate to read an early copy, and I remember being struck by the unfettered transitions from sentence to sentence and scene to scene. I just completed a second reading of the published novel so that my thoughts would be fresh on the content. I was as thoroughly thrilled with the second reading as the first, and one overriding thought was that Aimee Hix really knows how to write. As a former English teacher, I take great delight in her sentence structure, transitions, and command of the language. Her playful turn of phrase can surprise the reader with some gems, like "Even if he hadn't looked like a lying liar pants with his shifty lying body language ..." Add the language mastery to the storytelling and character creation, and you have what is sure to be one of the best new books of 2018.

Willa Pennington is an ex-cop who is in training to join her father's private investigating business. Still trying to recover from the loss of her best friend Michael, dead just four months, Willa stumbles into a murder scene when doing a favor for her neighbors, David and Susan Horowitz. Their granddaughter Violet is in an abusive relationship with a man, and Willa agrees to meet Violet at the place she shares with the abusive boyfriend to help move. But, when Willa arrives at the isolated house, no one is there, except the dead boyfriend. Violet takes a runner, and Willa, whose father is currently out of town on vacation, feels a responsibility to the Horowitzes to clear Violet of any suspicion in the murder.

When Willa's continued interest and investigation into the murder brings her dead friend's brother into the picture, Willa finds that loose ends to a murder are not all she has to figure out. Seth and Willa have a complicated relationship that provides backstory and sexual tension and witty dialogue and danger. Not bad for a couple of characters trying to figure out both their places in the world and each other's lives. It also is a bit of a problem with both of them having a vested interest in catching the killer. The case is, of course, bigger than a single murder of a loser boyfriend. And, yet, it becomes personal, too. Willa’s doggedness to follow the threads and find answers takes a course of high drama and brutal action that endangers her life. 

Suspense, action, great story, great structure, great characters. I can hardly wait for Book #2!

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