Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Warped Ambition (Jo Riskin Mysteries #1)

31943344When the battered body of a teenage girl is found in a dumpster, Lieutenant Jo Riskin is called to take the case. Investigating with her partner, Detective Lynae Parker, Jo uncovers secrets, loyalties, and ambitions that give motives to a surprising number of suspects , including a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks.

While immersed in her current case, Jo is battling her own personal demons. After two years, she is still grieving over the loss of her husband, who was killed in the line of duty. New information that could help solve his murder, and let her move on with her life, is within her grasp.

Barricading her heart, Jo is determined to solve both cases and bring the killers to justice.

*May Contain Spoilers*

The title fits the crime, and the criminal, in the mystery novel, Warped Ambition by Debbie S. Tenbrink. Joellen Riskin battles her demons while she fights to solve the murder of a fifteen year old girl and maybe even find the man who killed her husband. 

Jo, short for Joellen, is a woman who has lost the most important person in her life. She struggles to stay sane as she works as a detective for the Grand Rapids Police Department. For a woman in so much pain, Jo hides it well. Though her mind wanders to Mike constantly, she keeps her main focus on her case. I couldn't help but instantly connect with Jo. First of all, I have a deep respect for any police officer, especially female officers. It's a tough job and they step up. Jo's the same way in this book. And second of all, Tenbrink does a fantastic job at balancing Jo's struggles with her bravery, courage, and persistence. I think readers will sympathetically connect with Jo while enjoying her playful attitude, when it does creep out. Tenbrink sets up an interesting dynamic between Jo and her current case which also works to bring readers into Jo's circle.

The fifteen year old who is the victim of the murder was also pregnant. At the beginning of the novel, the young girl decides to not go through with the abortion she had planned and is killed for that decision. It's Jo's job to find out why and who would kill over this unplanned pregnancy. At the same time, Jo keeps searching for clues to her husband's unclosed case. The death of which caused her to miscarry because of the stress and despair that Jo experienced upon losing her husband. This dynamic works both for and against Jo as her personal experiences open her up to be vulnerable. Though, it turns out to be a good thing, as it brings her closer to her partner, Lynae. 

The plot of Warped Ambition is messy with multiple suspects and clues that all point to different people. I think all of which are placed nicely in with the unfolding case. Though it was a little easy to figure out who the killer actually was, kind of like a neon sign blinking in my face. (However, to be fair, I read a lot of mystery novels.) My favorite thing about the book was the balance between personal struggles, detective work, and the case related to the death of Jo's husband. Tenbrink created a three dimensional world for Jo to work and move within. I always like when I get to see more of the 'real' life of the characters, outside the office and the mystery. I think it adds to the reader/character connection greatly. 

I am looking forward to future installments of this series. I like Tenbrink's writing style as well as her character development. I also like (and dislike) how it seems there's much more to Jo's husband's case that hasn't been revealed yet. So I'm definitely excited to see where that goes. I think readers who enjoy a strong, yet understandable, main character and the murder mystery / crime thriller genre will enjoy this book, and probably this series. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

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