Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review ~ Playing With Matches by N.C. Hyzy

Playing With Matches (A Riley Drake Mystery)Playing With Matches (A Riley Drake Mystery)
Author ~ N.C. Hyzy

About the book ~ 

As a female PI in Chicago, Riley Drake doesn't get the respect she deserves. Why should she? Right now her only client is PS Consultants, a high-class matchmaking enterprise, for whom she runs discreet background checks.

But then Riley is hired by billionaire John Stratton who is desperate to resume dating and make his own love connection. The handsome widower would be quite the catch—if it weren't for the fact that he probably murdered his wife.

Stratton’s woes are only part of Riley’s problems. Other clients—a TV celebrity with sexual-perception issues, a Trump-like entrepreneur with an embarrassing secret, and a worshipful drug-addict trying to go straight—keep her running through the streets of Chicago, ready to take down anyone who gets in her way.

Riley is determined to discover all their hidden truths, even though she knows playing with matches means you sometimes get burnt.

My thoughts ~ 

Riley Drake is strong, independent, sharp-as-a-tack, confident, tough-as-nails, packs heat, looks like the girl-next-door, and is a private investigator.  You don’t want to mess with her.  Eugene Ekk finds this out the hard way when he hits on Riley in the elevator of her office building. Not only does he end up with a majorly bruised ego (who likes getting rejected?), but he also gets a bloodied nose, a split lip, a kick to his nether regions, and a dislocated elbow. I guess the old idiom You should never judge a book by its cover is true. The innocent, sweet looking girl you hit on just might take you out. 

Hannah Lilliqvist owns PC Consultants, a high end match-making firm. Members pay five figures to be set up with the person that could potentially be the love of their life.  Riley runs her PI business from her own office in Hannah’s office suite, but the majority of her bread-and-butter comes from doing background checks on Hannah’s clients.   

Billionaire John Stratton has come to PC Consultants looking for love. He’s ready to move on after the death of his wife Gretchen nearly a year ago. Of course, there is the little matter of his being the prime suspect in said wife’s murder that might prevent that. Since the time of her death, the police haven’t been able to make any progress in solving the case. After meeting Riley and finding out she is a PI, he is convinced that she will be the one to prove his innocence, and hires her to do so, at a fee she’s only dreamed about. Regardless of the issue concerning his guilt or innocence, John does have a huge secret he is hiding, a secret he is desperate to keep.

Unfortunately the Stratton case isn’t Riley’s only case. While it is her primary case, she is still running background checks for Hannah. Suki Connelly is plus-sized, forty-something, and hosts an hour talk show called Zaftig & Zexy.  She comes to PC Consultants looking to find a man to help dispel the lesbian rumors that are floating around. If she’s seen out and about with men, how can she be gay? Mark Flynn is sexy in a bottle. He shows up announced at the office looking for Hannah. When he only finds Riley, an interesting game of cat-and-mouse begins. Something seems weird with his sudden appearance. Is he simply looking for love, or does he have something else up his sleeve? Then there is also Zigmund Krol, the proverbial “big fish.” Hannah has been trying to land him as a client for ages.  Suki & Zigmund hook up and sparks fly. You’ll just have to find out for yourself if these are good sparks or bad ones.  Seth is Riley’s ex-husband who still hasn’t told his mother that he and Riley are divorced, and who also has a six-degrees-of-separation kind of connection to the murder Riley is investigating. Remember Eugene? He has this bizarre fixation on Riley, the woman who kicked his butt. He seems to have some type of information that might just help Riley with her investigation, but can this drug-addict be trusted? 

Mainstream mystery lovers should welcome N.C. Hyzy with open arms, as she’s sure to quickly become a favorite. You may know her better as Julie Hyzy, a gifted cozy author (see The West Wing Chef mystery series and the Manor of Murder mystery series.)   With Playing With Matches (A Riley Drake Mystery) N.C. has changed course from the books she’s known for and written a book with a bit more edge, more grit, stronger language, and a tougher heroine from what you would find in her other books. Creating a pen name will work to separate her two personas, so that those who prefer her cozy mysteries won’t be disappointed - or offended, if they should pick up a copy of Playing With Matches (A Riley Drake Mystery) and find it’s not what they expected it to be. What you can expect is that it has everything and more that a solid mystery should be: great supporting cast of characters, a mystery that you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out on your own, twists and turns galore, and a kick-ass heroine. There is so much to love and learn about Riley (and her seemingly sad past) that I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this amazing new series.


About the author ~ 

Julie Hyzy's first experience with food included flipping burgers and chopping onions at a neighborhood hot dog stand. She traded that experience for a job as a singing waitress at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour -- but gave that up when she started college (and because she couldn't carry a tune).

Over the years, she's acted in community theater productions, appeared in television commercials, and crashed a previously all-male fraternity to become one of the first female brothers in Loyola University's Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. Julie had dreams of becoming a writer, but family, friends, and frat brothers convinced her otherwise. Having held positions as junior officer at a downtown bank, office manager at an architectural firm, and financial advisor at a prestigious wealth management company, she realizes that the business degree was probably a good choice -- but fiction is truly her passion. Now, with some well-earned life experience behind her, she's delighted to finally be able to make writing a priority in her life.

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