Peden's debut mystery, winner of The Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, introduces a sparkling amateur sleuth. Campbell Hale is bright and loyal. She's also a little too nosy and, she admits, "a little too honest". She's the delightful narrator of Your Killin' Heart.
Campbell owns a travel agency in Nashville. She doesn't work in the music agency, but when her lawyer friend, Doug, says he's picking up some paintings at Jake Miller's house, she begs him to take her. Jake Miller was a country music icon, a man who drank a lot, married a lot, and died young. That alone could have made him famous, but Campbell's father still idolizes his songs. She tags along, and, although Doug warns her to stay close, she's dying to see Jake Miller's house. She opens one door too many, though, and finds a woman in bed. It's only later, when they learn Miller's widow, Hazel, is dead, probably murdered, that Campbell realizes she saw the victim.
Sure, Campbell could let that very capable Detective Sam Davis investigate. But, she's already established she's nosy. And, she saw the victim. She knows a few people in the music industry, and she saw a few people at the Miller estate. What would it hurt to ask a few questions? Campbell Hale's interview techniques leave something to be desired, though. When she's threatened, she and Detective Davis both know she may know the killer. And, the killer certainly knows how to reach Campbell.
The conversations between Campbell and Sam are priceless. When he checks the locks on her windows, she attempts humor, warning him his fingerprints are all over the locks. He answers, "What makes you think I haven't though of that? Now, when I murder you out of sheer frustration, I'll have a police homicide detective as witness that there's an innocent reason why my fingerprints are everywhere."
Amusing conversations are just one part of this entertaining book. It's rich in the music and atmosphere of Nashville. The characters are fun. Despite Nashville's size, Peden manages to bring a homespun feel to the debut mystery. Watch for Your Killin' Heart, Campbell Hale, and future books by Peggy O'Neal Peden.
Your Killin' Heart by Peggy O'Neal Peden. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250122681 (hardcover), 272p.
FTC Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.