Friday, May 25, 2018

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka: Reading Room Review

What You Want to See is Kristen Lepionka’s second novel and second in the series of private investigator Roxane Weary. Having fallen hard for P.I. Weary in the first book, The Last Place You Look, I opened the second story with elevated expectations, but also a niggling fear. Following up a great debut is no easy task. It became clear in the first few pages of book #2 that this is a series of sustaining substance. Kristi’s writing genius is no fluke; it’s genuine and thrilling. Sophomore slump is nowhere in sight.

After an emotionally and physically exhausting first case, Roxane Weary was able to get some more work from the publicity. But, publicity is wearing thin, and Roxane needs some cash flow, so she takes on a simple case of a man wondering if his lady love is straying. Arthur Ungless, owner of a printing shop, hires Roxane to follow his fiancée, Marin Strasser, to either get the goods on her or ease his mind about being cheated on. Easy peasy, but no.

Roxane is a magnet for the complicated, as demonstrated in her personal life. Torn between her dead father’s last partner in the police department, Tom, and longtime love interest, Catherine, nobody can accuse Roxane of being dull. Of course, the sometimes too much drinking doesn’t help. But, when Marin Strasser is found shot on a Columbus side street, sobering thoughts are called for. Roxane’s client, Arthur Ungless is looking rather good as the prime suspect, but being familiar with the more twisted scheme of cases, Roxane is certain that the case isn’t as straightforward as the police think. She is sure of Arthur’s innocence and ready to take on Marin’s family, the Columbus cops(including Tom), and the local mafia to prove it. Of course, there is the matter of the bounced check that Arthur paid her with to straighten out.

Kristi Lepionka can write. Who chooses the setting to be Columbus, Ohio? Well, an author who can bring fast, thrilling action and multi-layered storytelling to the page with a complex main character you’d follow to any setting, that’s who. Roxane Weary is a troubled character, but she’s finding a balance, being more grounded and less drunk than in the first book and making better decisions in her personal life. I love that Lepionka has given Roxane a sense of humor and some sass, as it adds strength to her already capable self. I’m so pleased with how Roxane’s bisexuality is portrayed, too. It’s not something that I’ve read about in many characters, and I find its seamless integration into the story refreshing. There are no billboards here announcing it; it just flows naturally, like it should.

And, speaking of characters, I highly recommend reading the first book of this series so you can appreciate the carry-over of connections made from that story line. In What You Want to See there is more of Roxane’s family dynamics, and Roxane is still struggling with her dead father’s secrets and their relationship. Tom and Catherine are both back, but Roxane is less of a mess about them, which bodes well for her future. And, Roxane even finds some time to help a teenage girl she encountered in her horrific first case.

Kristen Lepionka has entered the building, and she has proved she will be a continuing source of great sleuthing for readers with each new show. Readers of Kristi Belcamino’s Gia Santella will be instant fans of Roxane Weary.

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