A Davis Way Mystery (#1)
Davis Way used to be a cop in Pine Apple, Alabama. Her name sounds like a road and the name of the town looks misspelled, but really, that’s her name and Pine Apple is indeed the town from which she hails. She used to be married. To Eddie. Twice. It didn’t work out the first time and it’s hard to figure why she married him a second time.
In the course of the second divorce from her first-and-second husband — she refers to him as her ex-ex — Davis and Eddie behaved badly. Badly enough to get her fired from the force by her father and for a 2-way retraining orders to get slapped on Davis and her ex-ex. The juicy details of what happened are never given. I assume future books will flush out that piece of history.
After a very long search for some kind of job, she is hired by a Biloxi casino, purportedly to discover how someone(s) is beating the machines to collect the jackpot on their Double Whammy Poker slot machines. The terms of her employment are murky, never fully explained. From the get-go, Davis is sure that there’s something seriously awry with the entire setup but she needs the job. She needs the paycheck.
It’s hard to do your job when you aren’t sure what your job is. Harder still when nobody is who or what they appear, including Davis herself. Davis gets in deeper and deeper until she is about to be swallowed by the crime she is investigating. Eventually, with help from unexpected parties, she extracts herself from the quagmire that threatens to keep her in prison for a very long time. And she finds love. Her own double whammy.
Mostly, I liked it.
The book is funny with a witty, ironic flow. The biggest problem for me were narrative leaps. Transitions are missing and I found myself backing up and rereading to make sure I didn’t miss something. Even a couple of words to bridge those gaps would have been helpful.
Too much of the humor derives from “thought balloons.” Davis is “made funny” by overlaying her with a kind of dopiness that is out of character and artificial. Davis comes from a small town, but she’s no hick. She has degrees in Computer Science and Criminology. There’s not a dumb bone in her body. She has the potential to be a strong female character and jokes at her expense made me uncomfortable.
The plot is complicated and contains a few more characters than I thought were entirely necessary. It left too much unexplained personal history and baggage. I would have willingly traded away some of the plot wrinkles for a smoother narrative.
That being said, I like Davis Way. She’s observant, creative, dedicated and brave. She has a lot of heart. The book is uneven but Gretchen Archer has a fresh voice I’d like hear again.
As a first novel, Double Whammy is ambitious and well-realized. She has created a strong main character and a story with plenty of action. Despite trying a bit too hard, she handles a complex plot, a whole bunch of characters, a love story and accompanying back stories and still manages to tie up the ends. That’s a significant accomplishment for a new author. I’m convinced as Ms. Archer gains skill at her craft, her characters will grow and mature too.
It’s a pretty good book. Not deathless prose but fast-paced, lively and charming. It leaves plenty of room for character development and future stories. If there are more books in the series, I will read them. I’m expecting good things from Gretchen Archer.
She has been compared to Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum). There are similarities in their writing styles, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Davis Way is potentially a very strong character. She a computer expert and criminologist. She’s been brought up by a police chief father and knows how to handle weapons. She’s got the instincts of a real detective and I hope the author develops these qualities. Davis could be a terrific sleuth.
Double Whammy is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle. At a $2.99 introductory price on Kindle, it’s priced to sell. It’s more than worth the price. It is also available from Audible.com.
About the Author
Gretchen Archer is a Tennessee housewife who began writing when her daughters, seeking higher educations, ran off and left her. She lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, son and a Yorkie named Bently. Double Whammy is her first Davis Way mystery and her first novel.