Hell’s Half Acre is the second book in a series that takes place in the cheerily named Coffin Cove, I have not read the first book, but this gives enough background that it is unnecessary.
Coffin Cove is a tiny town in Canada, rife with the sort of issues that tiny towns have, and where almost everyone knows your business. The number of characters is large, but they are not all dumped on the reader at once.
Coffin Cove has elected a new mayor and ousted the guy who was mayor for what seems like forever – and like Kwame Alexander, seemed to think that in his position he could grift off almost any deal to enlarge his real estate empire.
Meanwhile, the new mayor has plans: revitalize the town to bring in more business and more tourists. Then the former mayor’s son goes missing, and Andi Silvers, disgraced big newspaper reporter turned small newspaper reporter in Coffin Cove is assigned to cover the investigation.
There are a number of twists and turns, and quite a deep dive into the town’s past – including why there is an area of land within the town called Hell’s Half Acre.
The RMCP is called in to assist, and it seems as if the lead investigator has a bit of history with Andi in the last book. Some of that background is provided to ensure the reader has a good picture of their relationship.
When a body turns up in the area of Hell’s Half Acre, it’s clear that the body belongs to the former mayor.
Meanwhile, a stranger appears in town, presumably a developer looking for projects within Coffin Cove. And, the body count starts rising.
Andi continues to investigate the disappearance just as the police do, and that investigation reveals some very nasty things about the small town – as anyone can tell you, sometimes the most sordid tales come from small towns.
The book reaches a crescendo as the good guys close in on the bad guys.
It’s a solid book, with a nice characterization of Andi and her reinvention as a small town reporter. Some of the other characters don’t get much more than broad strokes, to let us know of they’re nice or not, and (seemingly, to me) how sad or not we should be at their deaths. I also had issues with some of the writing. I think it could have been tightened up just a tad, and there were some redundant or “telling us again, in case we missed it”, identifying Summer as the mother of Jade, the new mayor in one chapter, and then in the very next, telling us again “Summer was Jade’s mother.” Yes, we know,because we’re already been told.
The culprit is pretty easy to see, and if the reader pegs the bad guy early, the rest of the book is still good, to watch the net close in.
I’m giving it four out of five stars.
Thanks to Joffe Books and NetGalley for the review copy.