“Union Jacked” by Dianne Vallere is chapter nine in the ongoing saga of Samantha Kidd. The main characters in this cozy mystery continue from previous books, but it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this one. Each character is briefly introduced for “new readers,” and also to remind regular readers of recent and past events in Samantha’s life. This is not a formula book with continuing characters dropped into a random plot line. Throughout the series, readers have tagged along as Kidd matured and changed. She has now taken charge of her previously dramatic personal life and has moved forward in a responsible way, and she shows real critical thinking skills. She has a job with benefits, a steady paycheck, professional respect, and the love of a man who accepts her as she is. Growing up fits her nicely, but she might disagree, especially when two people are shot in the parking lot of Tradava, the store where she works.
Readers eavesdrop on Kidd’s life through her first person narrative. She talks to herself; “Come on, Samantha. Get it together. Help is coming.” She talks to readers; “I could not be held responsible for the judgmental aspects of my body language.” She shares her thoughts; “And if I’d learned anything by now, it was that life was short and the unexpected happened.” She gives herself pep talks; “Starting tomorrow, I was going to work on that.” and most importantly, “I’m ready for something new,” but readers wonder if “the new” is ready for her.
Her entourage consists of a variety of interesting and colorful characters including of course Nick Taylor, her husband of less than a year, her friend from Tradava, Eddie Adams, and various employees of Piccadilly Group, a British investment company that had bought Tradava, as well as an assortment of local law enforcement personnel.
Readers follow along as she investigates the shooting, “My brain fast-tracked the distance between the points of fact;” plans her investigation strategies, “You work with what you get,” and evaluates events, “Except—what was I thinking? I didn’t want to die!”
As always, Vallere provides exacting descriptions, especially about what people, both friend and foe, are wearing.
“Today Victoria wore a plaid blazer with suede elbow patches over an ivory silk blouse that tied at the neck. A long A-line skirt that came to mid-calf draped over the top of suede riding boots. Oxford English Professor, I thought. She reached her hand up and tucked her strawberry blond hair behind one ear, displaying a tasteful ring with a small pearl, and matching pearl stud earrings.”
Kidd is faced with difficulties and complications including tight time schedules, upper management interference, labor disputes, and, of course, murder. Vallere makes good use of Kidd’s narrative style by strategically ending each chapter with a tantalizing bit of information, and Kidd has plenty of unexpected revelations that keep readers turning to the next chapter. There is a nice “shout-out” to Vallere’s past when reporter Frank Mazurkiewicz of the “Ribbon Eagle/Times.” was working late on a story about local swimmers.
“Union Jacked” is quick to read, and the events span just a few days. The book has both unusual developments and gratifying results. Kidd sums it up well; “In the end, the unlikeliest people around were the ones who had saved my life…It was time for me to move on as well.”