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For Rachel Chavez, every day is a battle with her demons. She only wants to stay sober and keep her recently inherited parking garage in downtown LA financially afloat. It's nearly a 24/7 job. Then an executive from the nearby water agency is killed by a hit-and-run driver and Rachel spots the car that did the deed in her garage. A few days later her stand-in employee dies of peculiar causes. And Rachel unknowingly becomes tangled in the conniving cross-purposes of California water politics.
When she uncovers evidence of a crime ring, Rachel believes the mystery of the two deaths is solved. But another official is killed, her own father disappears, and it becomes agonizingly clear that the killer is closing in on Rachel.
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Penny Rudolph won the 2003 EPPIE Award for her historical suspense novel Listen to the Mockingbird. She has also earned awards from the National Writers Association, Southwest Writers, Florida First Coast Writers, and Panhandle Professional Writers.http://pennyrudolph.comReview:
In Los Angeles, Rachel Chavez lives in the parking garage that she owns across the street from her best customer the Interurban Water District. Rachel knows how important it is to keep the management of
Interurban happy with her service; for instance she changed the flat tire on the vehicle of General Manager Jason Karl and has allowed late working water engineer Hank Sullivan a few extra minutes past lock up. Rachel notices that one of the Interurban cars parked in her garage has a bad scratch, a busted fender, and what appears to be blood on it. Not
long afterward, Rachel hears on the news that Jason died in a hit and run accident. She wonders if she has the murder vehicle parked inside her facility. Fearing to tell the cops as she is a former addict and drunk convict, she is encouraged by a cleaning crew manager and an environmentalist who rescues her from a mugger. She begins to wonder if Hank, who she likes, killed his boss over a water dispute. Though
Rachel illogically does not seem street wise, readers will take immense delight in the latest Southern California water war mystery. The story line is character driven by the heroine's conscience as Rachel ponders the ethical question of telling the authorities knowing that means trouble for her. Interestingly and what makes the novel, she does not turn into super amateur sleuth, but instead is dragged along the way and learns the truth when the culprit decides to cleanse her. Readers will compare
positively Rachel with Jake Gittes (see CHINATOWN and THE TWO JAKES) in this twenty-first century tale in which water is becoming more like oil. --Harriet Klausner, Midwest Book Review, June 2005
Rudolph launches a new series starring Rachel Chavez, who owns—and lives in—an L.A. parking garage. After her gambler father loses the family farm and her tuition money for Stanford, Rachel is grateful to have inherited the garage and its small apartment from her grandfather. Following codeine and alcohol addiction, Rachel is living day to day; trying to stay sober and make ends meet. During her rounds in the garage, she is upset to discover a dented car with smudges of what might be blood on the fender. Her initial fear turns to horror when she learns of the hit-and-run death of one of her regulars, an executive at nearby Interurban Water District. Is this the car that killed him? And, if so, who was driving? One of the many delightful aspects of this story is the eclectic band of misfits and outsiders who help Rachel solve the crime—from homeless fortuneteller Irene to night-shift office cleaner Goldie. Rudolph provides a well-crafted plot and satisfying levels of suspense, but what stands out most is Rachel herself—one of the most refreshing new series heroines to wander into the crime genre in quite a while. Let’s hope Rachel’s garage remains a dangerous place. —- Jenny McLarin, Booklist (5-1-05}
One strength of the book is the originality of the protagonist. She's a recovering addict and alcoholic named Rachel Chavez who owns a multi-story parking garage in downtown Los Angeles. When she gets
caught up in a murder mystery, she enlists as her partner in crime-solving a woman called Goldie who heads a cleaning crew of mentally handicapped
workers in the office building across the street...another original concept.
A second strong point is the writing. It's always clear and fast-moving, and sometimes is punctuated by neatly turned observations, such as when the
author describes Rachel's cat as "an orange tabby with the face of a prizefighter and the demeanor of a duke." Or when at the garage, "It was nearly six and most of the regulars had collected their cars like pets from a kennel."
Give the author points as well for using the mystery form to help illuminate a serious problem throughout the water-deprived Southwest...overbuilding in desert regions. She is writing about southern
California, but what she says is relevant to New Mexico as well, as when she writes that there is "More political intrigue over water that anything else you could name. Eighty percent of the people in the state never think about it. For the other twenty percent, it's like a religion. Fire, brimstone, the
works." --Robert Mayer, The New Mexican magazine (9.11.2005)
Rudolph has a talent for creating likable characters. Chavez is not the first former alcoholic female sleuth to make her living under the hood of an automobile. (That distinction probably belongs to Barbara Seranella's ace mechanic Munch Mancini who this month appears in her eighth adventure, "An Unacceptable Death.") But, as she moves from her lonely day-to-day struggle to stay sober and solvent and still have a life to a pro-active, unstoppable search for a multiple murderer, she exhibits enough determination and strength of will (of body, too, for that matter) to satisfy any mystery fan...the author is particularly adept at crafting scenes of breathless action and situations of barely bearable suspense. -- Dick Lochte, OC Metro Magazine
The history of Los Angeles is the history of how humans diverted the scarcest of desert resources - water - to allow a large metropolis to thrive
and expand. The history of Los Angeles, indeed of all of Southern California, is also the history of conflict between urban planners, farmers
and ranchers, and environmentalists.
Rachel Chavez has no intention of getting involved in this particular tug of war. Devoted to maintaining her own sobriety, she lives in a small apartment
carved out of a large parking garage left to her by her grandfather. The garage also provides her livelihood, but eventually places her smack in the
middle of a great deal of trouble. A large environmental testing firm specializing in water purity rents parking spaces from her on a monthly basis.
When Rachel observes body damage to one of the cars owned by the testing firm, and when she learns that an employee of that firm has died in a hit and run accident, her suspicions are aroused. Other sinister events follow in short order and when her safety and the safety of her family and friends is threatened, Rachel perseveres to uncover the truth. As she follows the chain of events, she finds herself involved in the classic three way struggle over the best way to manage water resources.
Rachel is a gutsy young woman, determined to act on her own. Whether her reluctance to consult with police (based on unhappy experiences during the
years she abused alcohol) is a believable thread in the story is for the reader to decide. Rudolph develops her characters well, and the final
unmasking of the villain at the heart of the matter caught me by surprise. —Woodstock, CrimeSpree Magazine, June 2005
Imagine the basic theme of "Chinatown" the plundering of an area's water rights with a troubled modern woman who runs a parking garage in downtown
Los Angeles instead of a Jack Nicholson private eye, and you'll have some idea of the powerful mixture of ingredients in Penny Rudolph's fascinating
new mystery, "Thicker Than Blood."
Rachel Chavez, who survived a bout with drugs and drink when her mother died, has inherited from her grandfather a building across from the InterUrban Water District office, and most of that agency's employees park their cars there. When the pompous but attractive head of the agency is killed by a hit and run driver, Chavez is certain that the car involved
belongs to the agency's fleet and is parked in her garage. She's afraid to go to the police because she doesn't want to lose the agency's business and
because she served time in jail for drug possession. But when another agency official and Chavez's flaky, part time assistant are killed, she knows she
has to start digging on her own.
Rudolph gets it all right: the daily dirty work of running a small garage, the conflicting emotions of a woman trying to stay afloat and alive, the mixed motives of everyone from activists to bureaucrats. Water is what makes "Thicker Than Blood" an important social document. Here's hoping there are other kinds of clients near Chavez's garage, so she can come back soon and tell us their stories. -- Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune (6.12.2005)
Another recommended summer read for the beach. -- Tom Elliott, Mensa International Journal (August 2005)
A 21st century version of Chinatown for Los Angeles ....
Praise for Listen to the Mockingbird
"Occasionally one of the thousands of books published each year just grabs the reader and won't let go. This is one of those rare finds.... Be prepared to forget meals and stay up all night when you start reading this book."
--Betty Parker, Southwest Bookviews
"A terrific book by a terrific writer.... Exciting and well-written.... Characters are well-drawn and lively.... Everything is top-drawer.... Rudolph builds a great house of words. She's good."
--Warren Murphy, author of the Destroyer series
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Book Description Poisoned Pen Press, 2005. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1590581636