WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis

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Gypsy Moran’s return to Wink, Texas was meant to be an attempt to lay low after the fallout from a recent case. Instead, he finds himself roped into a local mystery that could have devastating results.

Twelve-year-old Tatum McCallen is certain his father did not commit suicide. He’s insistent about that fact. The man in question, a cop – as his father was before him, had been investigating a series of missing persons cases the department had already shrugged off, in his personal time, when he was found hanging from a tree in his own backyard.

At first Gypsy isn’t interested in getting involved, but as he learns more about the McCallen family and the case Tatum’s father was digging into, even he begins to realize something is very wrong in Wink. And as his own investigation progresses, Gypsy finds he may not like where the clues are leading.

This 2013 winner of St. Martin’s/PWA Best 1st PI Novel Competition introduces a great new private investigator to the mystery scene. Michael “Gypsy” Moran grew up in Wink and longed to leave from an early age. In truth, it was because he didn’t qualify for a football scholarship and couldn’t see himself working a ranch. And so he left for Vegas where he became a PI. But things, as we soon learn, have gone a bit sour in Sin City forcing him to return to his hometown.

In terms of plotting and setting I think Chandler-Willis has done a fantastic job. I was hooked from page one with Tatum’s plea and found Gypsy to be a compelling and utterly likable character (perfect as a PI series lead, in other words). The clues and story unfold at a great pace and Wink, an actual town in West Texas whose claim to fame is that Roy Orbison once lived there, comes to life completely.

I should be clear, though, in that the case Gypsy is investigating is the death of Tatum McCallen’s father. There are a few cases that are intertwined with this one, including the missing girls, but that case isn’t Gypsy’s focus right now. By pointing that out, I mean to say that there are a few questions left unanswered at the end of the book, questions that likely make for further installments in what I hope will be a series. (The author is reportedly working on her second Wink project as we speak.)

Wink of an Eye has been nominated for a 2015 Shamus award in the Best First PI Novel category.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis. Minotaur Books (November 18, 2014).  ISBN 978-1250053190. 304p.

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