Owlcat’s #CBR5 Review #02: The Last Dance by Lonna Enox

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to explain that Lonna Enox and I have been penpals for many years and in many ways, she has been an inspiration to me.  This said, however, when I read this debut crime novel of hers, within minutes of beginning to read it, I completely forgot who the author was and was completely wrapped up with the main character, her cat, and the murder mysteries that are central to the novel.

It takes place in Saddle Gap, a small, unassuming town in southwestern New Mexico that had never experienced a “crime wave,” but when the main character, a woman named Sorrel Janes, moves into town after inheriting a relative’s run-down house and shop, not one but two people are found murdered.  She had moved to this town to get away from the memories of her husband’s murder that she may or may not have been responsible for because of her high-profile career as a TV news reporter, yet here she was involved indirectly at least with two murders and becoming fearful that her life was never going to change and bad things would always follow her. People appear mysteriously and events occur mysteriously that suggest she might also become a victim.

However, the town’s detective, Chris Reed, who is unassuming and quietly assertive, questions her motives for moving to the town and considers her a person of interest if not exactly a suspect, and is determined to both resolve the murders and learn the truth around her somewhat sudden appearance in town. At the same time, he becomes concerned for her safety, and he becomes drawn to her and she to him; their relationship becomes an emotional and flirtatious dance that neither of them quite knows what to do about. They are respectful of each other but suspicious of each other at the same time, and both maintain a stubborn stance when confronted with the realities and possibilities of what is going on.

The characters are well developed and it’s interesting, in this day and age, that Enox has been able to weave  concrete and believable dialogue without ever using four-letter words.  She relies on emotion and intelligent dialogue to move her characters forward yet there is never the sense that she has deliberately avoided using spicier language; for people who might be offended by the current trend of using four-letter words to make dialogue seem more realistic, this could be a godsend. I have no problems with more realistic dialogue but also had absolutely no problem with the dialogue in this book. It wasn’t until I finished it that I realized how “clean” it had been. The ending itself is satisfactory and believable and I didn’t figure out who the real murderer was nor the motive until it was revealed, so it was a surprise and well executed.

I particularly liked the locale of the story as something different from most of the crime and murder mysteries I read, which tend to take place in big cities here in the States or overseas. The locale added a sense of calm and mystery to the entire novel.

I know for a fact that Lonna Enox is working on a sequel and I look forward to seeing what Sorrel Janes’s next challenge will be.