Double Whammy by Gretchen Archer is the first Davis Way Crime Caper novel, a humorous mystery set in Biloxi, Mississippi (available May 14, 2013).
Davis Way is divorced from her ex-ex-husband (so, yes, twice divorced from the same guy), unemployed because her father fired her, not getting along with her mother—which is par for the course, and frustrated. It doesn’t look like things can get much worse. After all, how many restraining orders can one girl face?
Things start to look up when she finds a job at the Bellissimo, a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The grand hotel offers a chance to start over, with a large paycheck and posh surroundings. After a gazillion interviews, Davis is hired to work undercover security, catching safe-cracking thieves and protecting the casino’s hard-earned gains. However, nothing in the Bellissimo is as straightforward or simple as it seems.
First off, the man who seems to be ripping off the Bellissimo’s biggest slot-game—the Double Whammy—is Davis’s ex-ex-husband.
Double Whammy is the first book in the new Davis Way series, and it is a fun introduction to a smart, funny new character that fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum will find refreshing. Davis is a former cop, so she knows the law but she breaks it with impunity. She has no reservations telling her coworkers where to get off, and has an instinct for spotting criminal activities—something the other security officers at the Bellissimo are concerned with:
“What team are you playing for?”
I stared into Teeth’s eyes, and found nothing there.
He didn’t intend to move until I gave him an answer.
“Are you asking me if I’m a lesbian?”
He jumped up and the chair went down. “I don’t care if you’re a lesbian.”
He picked the chair up, holding it midair, and I thought he was about to throw it at me. Instead, he righted it and sat back down. In a lower voice he said, “I’m asking if you’re a criminal because you think like one. All. The. Time.”
Archer surrounds Davis with a great cast of side characters that are cherry-picked for making it a killer series. There’s the taxi driver with a mysterious past. A super-sexy landlord. A secretary who knows all the ins-and-outs of the casino (and has great fashion sense). A casino owner with connections to Las Vegas crime families. A father who is the sheriff of a small town. And Davis’s relationship with her mother would need a series of its own to get resolved:
I sucked in some oxygen. I did feel a stab of guilt at the pitiful state of our parents’ marriage, which wasn’t marriagey at all; it was a hostile roommate standoff. The big gridlock was ME, of course—Daddy’s “failure to allow me to suffer repercussions for any of my actions,” and Mother’s “Lack of human compassion for her own child.”
(Guess whose side I was on.)
When it comes down to business, though, Davis can figure out puzzles with the best of them. Along with the smaller felonies, like the employees breaking into guests’ safes, Davis has to figure out how her ex-ex-husband, Eddie, is walking away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The good news for tech-inspired readers is Davis has a degree in computer science. She breaks down a couple of slot machines in her apartment. She hunts people effectively on the Internet. She has epiphanies House-style. Davis Way might be a little crazy, and her personal life might be entirely imaginary, but she’s bright:
There were three computer chips, all soldered to the motherboard inside the slot machine. Two contained game data, and the third was a random number generator. It popped right off, and, as it turned out, wasn’t so random a number generator. That made good sense to me, because if it was completely arbitrary, the casino wouldn’t be able to guarantee that they would make money. Interesting, certainly, but I tossed that chip aside. I was more interested in the two that contained the game data written by Morgan George, Jr.
Her investigations lead her into a world of trouble the Gaming Commission and some Las Vegas heavy hitters. She discovers that the software programmer for the Double Whammy slot machine was murdered in Las Vegas. And two other men who have won jackpots from the Double Whammy are also dead.
Putting two and two together, Davis realizes she has to figure out who is behind the murders or the next person to wind up dead will be her ex-ex.
Davis Way is smart enough and sassy enough to carry a series forward for a long time. Gretchen Archer has developed a setting—a casino in the South—that is both interesting and sprawling enough to have an almost infinite number of criminals walking through its doors, which means Davis Way will probably have a great deal of work to do that won’t stretch the credulity of readers. If you’re in need of a good laugh and some wacky, loving characters after a hard week, you should definitely grab Double Whammy. It’ll make you smile.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.