Did I ACTUALLY find a mystery series I like? I think so! Roxane Weary is a great protagonist in this fast-paced suspense procedural. Some of her is a cliche (detective with a drinking problem, relationship/attachment issues thanks to a Daddy backstory) but most of it’s forgivable since she’s a compulsively readable character. You’ll root for her but also utter the phrase “Roxane, WTF?” under your breath. I like complex heroines, and this one has an added layer of intrigue as she’s a bisexual woman. LGBTQ leads are basically non-existent in the mystery genre.
The plot is a typical procedural mystery with great twists and turns as Roxane races against time to prove the innocence — or confirm the guilt — of a Brad, a Black prisoner on death row for murder. The murdered woman in question is seen in public fifteen years after her disappearance… or is she? Roxane, a private investigator, is hired to find this mystery woman who may just be able to prove Brad’s innocence in time to save him from execution. Roxane — an alcoholic juggling two part-time booty calls, one a man and the other a woman — stumbles across an old case that may be connected to this one, but her personal vices may not let her get out of her own way enough to solve it.
There are plenty of well-developed supporting characters who help move the story along. My only criticism of The Last Place You Look is the fact that the character with the most potential for development wasn’t utilized well. Brad, the aforementioned inmate on death row, is a Black man potentially convicted of a crime he maybe didn’t commit. I think the author missed an opportunity here to offer a larger commentary on what the justice system — especially law enforcement — does to African American folks in this country. Then again, I recently read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and am possibly being unfairly influenced by her intimate portrayal of another incarcerated and potentially innocent Black man. I completely understand that isn’t Lepionka’s objective with this novel.
This is the first in what will be a Roxane Weary series of mysteries, the second of which is What You Want to See, already out. As mentioned, mysteries aren’t usually my genre but I might have to visit Roxane again and see what she’s up to.