A Surprisingly Good Read

I feel somewhat lost. I have finished a good book and now I have nothing to anticipate when I tire of working on the computer, entertaining my dogs or finishing household chores.

A new book by H.G. McKinnis,
“…Fast-paced, funny, and gritty…”

The good book was a surprise actually. It’s a new book called A Justified Bitch, a Las Vegas Mystery. I’m not much of a fiction reader but I knew the author, H.G. McKinnis, because I interviewed her some time ago, H.G was one of two wardrobe supervisors for the Crazy Girls and Illusions shows at the Riviera Hotel & Casino. She seemed nice enough then, talented as a seamstress, full of positive energy and occasionally just a bit quirky (which I loved). Also, she used to be a staff writer for Living-Las-Vegas.com.

But a novelist?

I couldn’t believe my own reaction to her writing. McKinnis really knows how to tell an story and she knows how to build full portraits of the people in her story. I found myself really wanting to follow the characters’ journeys…in a fiction book no less.

The book has twists and turns but they don’t initially affect solving the book’s mystery. The major twists and turns concern the story’s principle character, a woman named Helen Taylor (love that last name) who witnesses a murder and who, we gradually learn, does not have a grip on reality. Helen’s sister, Pat, along with the reader discover that Helen’s story is messy (literally), oddly resilient and stubbornly her own. The book is set in Las Vegas, but the city, in my view, was not a major character in the story. Las Vegas is simply the location where the story takes place, but is very recognizable to those of us who live here.

H.G. McKinnis in the Spring Mountains
Photo by Sean L. Taylor

Descriptions that brought me to places and people in the story were direct and didn’t unnecessarily show off the author’s vocabulary. I have always hated overlong descriptive phrases which some fiction writers love, but McKinnis uses just the right words to tell her tale. I felt I could see every setting in the story. I underlined only one word to look up, the word: Schapendoes (Dutch Sheep Dogs). I’m embarrassed, as a dog lover, that I had never before heard of that breed.

The chapters were relatively short, giving me convenient breaks as life interfered with reading. I loved that just as the story was humming along, a surprise pointed the story in new directions.

Because both of the main characters, Helen and Pat, are female, the book may more likely be enjoyed by female rather than male readers, but that I can’t say for certain. The sister brings two sons with her to Las Vegas and they are important to the story as is a male detective introduced early on and who remains with the story throughout. Yes, the mystery is eventually solved and for me the solution was definitely not telegraphed in advance.

A warm cup of coffee and a good book, the recipe for a cozy afternoon break.
Photo by Diane Taylor

In summary, all I can say as typically a non-fiction reader is that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and did not feel I wasted my time as I have felt in reading other works of fiction. I did not skip “the boring parts” because I personally found no boring parts and read every paragraph of the book’s 309 pages. Congratulations H.G. McKinnis…your Las Vegas mystery produced a very good read.

H.G. McKinnis will launch A Justified Bitch with a reading and signing at The Writer’s Block on Tuesday, August 8th at 7:00 pm, (10th and Fremont, downtown Las Vegas). Cocktails and canapes will follow at The Kitchen at the Atomic across the street. This event is free and open to the public.

The following night, Wednesday, Deborah Wall will launch Base Camp Las Vegas: 101 Hikes in the Southwest at the Clark County Library (Flamingo and Maryland Parkway) with a discussion and signing on August 9th at 5:00 pm. A reception will follow. This event is free and open to the public. Click here for a review of Deborah Wall’s new book by Osie Turner.

Purchase on Amazon.com: A Justified Bitch: A Las Vegas Mystery, by H.G. McKinnis. Also available as an e-book and an outstanding audiobook narrated by Jane Oppenheimer. More information about the local publisher, of this book, Imbrifex Books.


4 responses on “A Surprisingly Good Read

  1. Did you know that Broadacres, which features prominently in McKinnis’ book is a real place? To read a profile about H.G. McKinnis check out this month’s edition of the Desert Companion magazine. H.G.’s profile “The Book of Life” by Desiree Sheck and a photo captured at Broadacres starts on page 52 of this month’s issue. (Actually, the online version is shown on page 54, in the link — just look for the photo of H.G. playing with bubbles…)

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