Abbie Palmer, nee Hart, is shocked out of her mid-life crisis when a woman named Olita shows up on her doorstep, claiming that they’re half-sisters — both daughters of former pin-up girl Virginia Hart, who committed suicide when Abbie was four. The next day, Olita dies under suspicious circumstances, and Abbie resolves to find out the truth about her mother’s past while also solving the mystery of Olita’s murder. With the help of Makenna, Olita’s daughter and Abbie’s potential niece, Abbie sets out on a cross-SoCal journey that takes her from Pasadena to the High Desert, encountering old Hollywood producers, civil rights activists, and vengeful singers along the way.
Degani flings readers into her plot head-long, and the story is fast-paced: Degani covers a lot of ground in just over 200 pages, primarily by focusing tightly on the mystery; at times, Abbie’s relationship with her husband seems to fall by the wayside. That said, Abbie’s relationship with her maybe-niece, Makenna, is fully realized and conscientiously developed, and I found myself rooting for the best of all possible outcomes for the both of them. My only nitpick is that sometimes information was repeated from chapter to chapter, but I suppose that’s the result of the novel moving over from an online serial format. Definitely a book I’ll be recommending to my other mystery-loving friends!
Rachael Warecki is an alumna of Scripps College, Loyola Marymount University, and the Teach for America ’08 corps. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Masters Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Midwestern Gothic, among other publications. She lives in Los Angeles.