- Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Last year Melissa Lenhardt blew us away with her debut, the Texas noir Stillwater. Set in the titular small town, it introduced us to Stillwater’s new chief of police, former FBI agent Jack McBride. With a low crime rate and a 5-man police force, the new gig should have been a piece of cake; instead, Jack is immediately confronted with the town’s first crime wave in 30 years.
Jack’s fresh start in Stillwater stems from personal reasons —a year before, his wife walked out with no warning, and when she wasn’t immediately located, Jack’s fellow police officers suspected that he may have engineered her disappearance. Jack eventually found her (and her much younger lover) and retreated to Stillwater with his teenage son Ethan to escape her memory and the cloud of suspicion that remains. As he finds his way in the new town, he forges an immediate bond with local businesswoman Ellie Martin and a heated affair ensues.
Lenhardt perfectly captures the intrigue and drama inherent in small town Texas life. In a setting where it’s difficult to retain anonymity and privacy, where everyone knows your business, people will go to great lengths to keep secrets.
Lenhardt’s second Jack McBride mystery, The Fisher King, picks up where Stillwater left off. Jack’s wife Julie has returned,determined to rekindle their marriage; Ellie has abruptly ended their affair. Jack’s brother Eddie has reappeared in his life, the cocaine in his pocket presenting an inconvenience for the chief of police.
When an abandoned house burns down with two bodies inside, Jack immediately senses that the local drug turf war is intensifying. He believes that the mastermind behind the drug trade is the most influential business man in Stillwater, Joe Doyle—who happens to be running against Ellie in the race for city council. Doyle has convinced many Stillwater residents that the increasing crime rate can be traced to the day Jack took the job as chief of police, and is determined have him fired as just as soon as he wins the election. Soon two more bodies turn up, and Jack has to work quickly to solve the murders before he’s removed from office.
Lenhardt perfectly captures the intrigue and drama inherent in small town Texas life. In a setting where it’s difficult to retain anonymity and privacy, where everyone knows your business, people will go to great lengths to keep secrets. Newcomers are always the target of immediate suspicion and must work hard to prove themselves. Throw a few murders into the dichotomy between the long-time residents and those who’ve just arrived, and you have a satisfying mix of dark, dangerous, and sexy.
Lenhdardt writes mystery, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. Last year’s Stillwater was a finalist for the 2011 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Emerging Writers’ Contest. She is also the author of Sawbones and the upcoming Blood Oath. She is a board member of the DFW Writers’ Workshop and vice president of the Sisters in Crime North Dallas Chapter.
The Fisher King comes out today! You can find copies of The Fisher King on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.