Poisoned Pen Press. 298 pages. Hardback $26.95, Trade Papberback $15.95.
I have finally caught up with Whittle’s Tai Randolph Mystery series, now in its fifth installment. Set in Atlanta and Savannah, this tale of crime, family, retribution, and Old South/New South contrasts and continuities has plenty of energy and strong characters. It’s main center of interested, however, is not so much the detection business but the relationship between Tai and Trey, the man she loves.
Trey Seaver is a former SWAT team policeman, now employed by a private security firm, who is coming back from serious injuries. He is pushing himself to restore his physical and cognitive losses. Both Tai and Trey tend to be overly protective of one another, but this is to be expected given their need for each other and their present vulnerabilities.
Tai, who has taken a few steps back from her years of amateur sleuthing, runs a gun shop that sponsors Civil War reenactments. Her cousins and uncle – the Boone family – are a villainous trio. Jasper Boone leads a white supremacist group that is too extreme for the KKK. His brother Jefferson is not to be trusted. Patriarch Beauregard is hospitalized and not far from death. People who are likely to testify against him in court are also likely to be found dead. Then there is the huge amount of stolen Klan money that has become something worth fighting over, dying for, and betraying anyone who gets in the way.
Tai somehow feels responsible for helping to bring her relatives to justice and preventing them from committing further crimes, but her intentions make her a possible victim. It is the family issue that brings Tai back from Atlanta to Savannah, and it is Trey’s love for her that brings him there as well.
The plot is a network of temporary alliances followed by betrayals, roaring action, and mountains of fear and suffering. Trey works by training and discipline. He needs an orderly path to function effectively and to keep his strong appetites in check. This seeking of balance is necessary both in his professional and private life. Tai respects him enormously, but tends to depend more on her gut and spontaneity.
Reckoning and Ruin is populated by a fairly large cast of well-drawn, distinctive female characters. These include Trey’s employer Marisa, a capable and confident businesswoman; Gabriella, “Trey’s bodywork therapist, alternative medical adviser, and former lover”; Cheyanne Boone, Jefferson’s wife and like him “high up in the Klan, the newly sanitized, female-friendly, uber-empowered version”; boat captain Louise Markowitz; and Hope, a fear-wrecked basket case of a woman who’s caught up in other people’s schemes and can almost never tell the truth. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the Southern Literary Review, click here: “Reckoning and Ruin,” by Tina Whittle – Southern Literary Review