Don't let the cover of Nora McFarland's Hot, Shot, and Bothered fool you. It's far from a chick lit mystery, although the jumping character might give you that idea. It's a mystery involving TV news, a wildfire, environmental issues, and, most important in a murder mystery, someone who truly cares about the victim.
Lilly Hawkins is a TV news photographer, a shooter, for a small station in Bakersfield, California. She's covering what could be the biggest assignment of her career, a deadly wildfire heading toward the town of Elizabeth Lake. But, Lilly recognizes a second story when she sees it, the coroner's van heading into the mountains, while other cars are heading out of town. She follows her instincts, only to be disappointed when she learns the body of a drowning victim was pulled from the lake. Not quite the story she was looking for, since everyone tells her it was a woman who drank and partied, and no loss to the community. But, pushy Lilly thinks she can make a story by interviewing the victim's brother, a hotshot, one of the men on the frontline fighting the wildfire. Lilly's blindsided when she realizes she knew the victim, someone from the years when she herself was reckless and irresponsible, a reputation she deserved, but the victim, Jessica Egan, didn't. And, the fact that no one cares about Jessica, including her brother, bothers Lilly, a lot.
One other thing bothers Lilly. Jessica had a shoulder injury, and couldn't have started the motor of the old boat she was supposed to have been in. The Jessica Lilly knew wasn't irresponsible. In fact, she had taken a hit for Lilly's bad behavior and covered for her. Even then, in her teens, Jessica was concerned about the environment, fighting to save a salamander that made its home in the preserve now endangered by the fire. Something didn't sit right, and Lilly is determined to investigate the death she thinks was murder, even if it means she is "Fixin' to lose your job, your man, and get ill of the cops all in one night." The TV station and the media world might have thought the wildfire and the governor arriving were the story of the day. To Lilly, the story is the possible murder of someone who took the responsibility for her own impetuous, careless actions. And, she will use everyone, including her boyfriend, Rod, and her uncle, to make her case.
Hot, Shot, and Bothered is the second mystery to feature Lilly Hawkins, following A Bad Day's Work. McFarland, who worked for CNN, understands the news junkie, the person who will do anything for a story. Lilly is a fascinating character, a woman determined to be independent and strong in a man's world. She's afraid to be vulnerable, and hides her vulnerability behind her camera. Even so, this woman with a tough exterior cares about a victim she hasn't seen in years. In the Jessica Egan the community thought they knew, Lilly Hawkins sees herself and her past. In so many ways, she needs to make amends.
McFarland fills the story with intriguing characters, Lilly, Rod, Lilly's Uncle Bud, and the entire TV news team, as well as the female firefighter, Tracy Bell. Bud, the endangered salamanders (not lizards), and some of the staff of the TV station add touches of humor. Nora McFarland adds themes of a dangerous wildfire, an environmental group, the news business, and, of course, the tragedy of a death. Lilly Hawkins might be an adrenaline junkie, but the reader will feel as if they've been running on adrenaline after reading Hot, Shot, and Bothered.
Nora McFarland's website is www.noramcfarland.com
Hot, Shot, and Bothered by Nora McFarland. Simon & Schuster. ©2011. ISBN 9781439155561 (paperback), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.