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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series



Mystery, Western, Romance

Tarnished Remains: Shandra Higheagle Mystery - Paty Jager, Christina Keerins

In the second in a series with an amateur sleuth, I always look for the plausibility factor, especially in a series that’s realistic and serious, not a humorous cozy. Jager pulls it off well. Artist Shandra Higheagle finds a body when digging clay for her pottery. She doesn’t run into a new murder, but a decades-old cold case, a body hidden in the earth on the remote ranch she purchased long after the death took place. The connections to people she knows and cares about come naturally as well, and her involvement with understanding how this man came to die there never feels contrived. Shandra is in the early stages of a relationship with Detective Ryan Greer, so the mystery mixes police procedural with amateur sleuthing and the progress of their romance. Shandra and Ryan are strong characters and carry the story.


The plot turns fast. Sometimes I felt that the clues fell into place too quickly, without enough wrong turns—and then, as I reached the end, I could see there had actually been plenty of red herrings, but that they hadn’t looked like such. Now that’s good plotting. I did not figure out who the killer was until Shandra and Ryan found out. The killer’s moment of revelation wasn’t the most believable piece of dialog in a book that otherwise flows well with natural speech—but then, in most mysteries, that particular moment is a bit of a stretch. It’s a genre convention.


Since the situation was set up so well, with so little sense of coincidence or implausibility, I wish the author hadn’t occasionally included lines that drew attention to Shandra having found a body again or Shandra being connected with one of Ryan’s investigations again. In some series, that would be necessary, but not this one. Without those lines, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.


Intriguing hints of where future books could go are planted in this one. This series will appeal to readers who enjoy mystery with a western flair and a touch of romance.