Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Ex-investigative journalist, Rita Mars loses an old friend to what looks like suicide. She’s convinced he was murdered to cover unethical maneuvers and save reputations in the abyss that is Congress. Back stabbings inside the beltway sometimes extend beyond metaphorical. She’s going to butt heads with the local good ole boy authorities and navigate the deliberately stoked smoke screens of the duly elected, but she is never going to give up.
Although Rita Mars operates as a private investigator, she still has a nose for news from her days as a reporter. When Bobby Ellis turns up dead in an apparent suicide, Mars is adamant that her friend was murdered because of an explosive story he was about to write. Driven: A Rita Mars Thriller marks the debut novel from author Valerie Webster.
Mars, along with her posse of zany characters, including Captain Mary Margaret Smooth, and administrative assistant Beverly Hills (formerly known as Charles Tyrell Wheatly), leaves no stones unturned. The hunt takes Mars into the heart of the Capitol, where politicians are wrangling over healthcare legislation. She’s determined to find out what it was Ellis had discovered that led to his death.
It’s just a matter of time before Mars puts all the pieces together, but will she survive? Between the Ellis investigation and a private security case, danger is threatening Mars from all sides.
The storyline itself is fairly solid, but there’s a lot of action going on aside from the Ellis investigation. The author’s writing style is easy to follow, albeit a bit clichéd in certain parts. Mars’ sexual preference for women is made clear, but that information doesn’t really play a role in the story aside from a shared kiss with a heterosexual client and a scene involving the weekly basketball game as part of “The BeenGay Girls.”
Quite a bit of effort is devoted to the character of Beverly Hills, who is transgender. Based on the description, this character is straight out of one of RuPaul’s shows with a description as a black Amazon with inspirations to be Miss Christmas Wish. The only problem is a lack of consistency with pronouns. A light round of editing can could that up.
What raises a red flag for me as a reviewer is when my copy of the book, the same version currently available for purchase, contains some glaring errors beyond simple typos or punctuation. There are two different spellings for Rita’s dead friend within the book. Is it Bobby or Bobbie? There are also two different spellings for Rita’s neighbor. Is it Loretta or Lorretta? And then there is the reference in Chapter 20 to a “George Lukas movie,” which is certainly incorrect. Taken separately and only happening once would be grounds for me to overlook it and move on. However, that’s not the case here. Again, a round of editing would take care of this.
Driven: A Rita Mars Thriller paves the way for a series featuring this feisty P.I. The author gave readers a good taste of Rita Mars and her fierce determination to solve crimes.
Valerie Webster spent a career developing law enforcement applications for surveillance, security and forensics. She has also been a triathlete and a crime reporter. She honed her writing skills through “Sisters in Crime” and “Mystery Writers of America” mentoring program. In DRIVEN: A RITA MARS THRILLER, she weaves professional experiences into a high tension plot that sweeps the reader into the action from Page 1 to the breath-taking conclusion.
Valerie makes her home near Boulder, CO.