First Sentence: Refusing a ride back to the VFW was maybe the stupidest thing I'd done that morning.
Maggie Lews is trying to make ends meet by taking in a renter and serving as a bartender at the local VFW hall. Instead, she finds herself suspended from her job and suspected of murdering Korean war veteran Jack Hoffman. Not trusting the same police who still haven't solved the murder of her husband from a year ago, Maggie decides the only answer is to find the killer herself.
Not only does Matter introduce each of the characters, but we are told something which makes each one memorable. Matter has a wonderful voice. Her internal narrative for Maggie really works and makes the character someone to whom we can easily relate—"I could sometimes kick myself for being so stubborn. And mouthy. And grouchy. But I was working on it." Her issues are similar to those real women face, although possibly under different circumstances—"What did one wear to a strip club? Particularly a short, middle-aged, slightly chunky woman." The reference to reading Dennis Lehane adds a nice touch of realism.
All of the characters are fully developed. Yes, her neighbor Michael's background may seem a bit convenient, but that diminishes as we learn more about his background. His advice to Maggie adds a nice touch of seriousness—"Okay, don't ever forget that there's a real killer out there. This isn't a game." Gussie, a former teacher with a good eye and a sharp mind, is the type of character one always appreciates. The information about the murder of Maggie's husband and the rumor of treasure hidden in her house is well, and naturally, presented.
It is interesting to learn about VFW halls, their structure and customs. The tradition of the POW/MIA table is particularly moving.
Some books are filled with descriptions of delectable French or Italian fare. Matter gives one good ole', stick-to-the-ribs basic meals—"In a matter of minutes, Sally set two plates heaping with fried eggs, bacon, home fries, buttered toast, and unasked-for grits before each of us. … I scraped the last remaining egg off of my plate with a last bite of toast. Sally whizzed by, grabbed my plate, and plopped down a piece of banana cream pie. "Now, you can have some of my pie. You earned it."" Now doesn't that sound good?
Suspense is even more suspenseful when it escalates in increments. Matter does just that, and does it very well giving us nice plot twists along the way. It is not often an author provides as much background on the victim as Matter does. It's a refreshing change which humanizes the one who died. And it's nice when the killer is someone one should have guessed but didn't.
"Last Call" is a delightful debut. It's a traditional mystery with great characters that leaves one looking forward to the next book.
LAST CALL (Ama Sleuth-Maggie Lewis-Florida-Contemp) – G+
Matter, Paula – 1st book
Midnight Ink – July 2018