Deadly Keepsakes: A Tori Winters Mystery by Anita Dickason
A modern reimagining of the Gothic romantic suspense novel in the vein of authors such as Phyllis A. Whitney or Daphne du Maurier.
When hospice nurse, Tori Winters, suspects that one of her elderly patients has been murdered, she comes under attack from the murder suspect's family. Threatening phone calls escalate quickly to her home being vandalized, tires slashed, and someone taking a shot at her. With nothing holding her in Springfield, Missouri, she decides the safest course of action is to get out of town.
While rushing to get her escape underway, she receives an intriguing letter from an attorney in Granbury, Texas, but he refuses to give much information over the phone. She decides the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be as good a place as any to start over, so she heads south to talk to the man in person. Imagine Tori's surprise when she learns a wealthy grandmother she never knew she had has left her entire estate, including a lovely old home in town, to her in her will.
Tori falls in love with the house at first sight and decides to move in and bring it back to its former glory. However, the attorney, the executor of her grandmother's will, firmly tries to dissuade her, urging her to sell at every opportunity he gets. He's already received a very lucrative offer, it seems. Everywhere she turns, some old town mover-and-shaker pressures her to sell up, trying to ride roughshod over her repeated wishes to live in the beautiful old home.
During the final months of her grandmother's life, the old lady had dismissed her housekeeper, and the house's interior needed a lot of TLC. Tori decides to hire a local woman with her own home cleaning business, and Mia O'Brien turns out to be a godsend. About the same age as Tori and a real go-getter besides, Mia takes the job in hand and soon has her crew of young women, all close friends, at the house and working miracles, befriending Tori along the way. However, Tori soon hears strange noises in the house at night and finds things moved or left out of place. She has an eerie feeling that she's being watched. When accidents start occurring, she begins to wonder if her grandmother's death from a fall down the stairs was really the accident everyone claims and if she might not be next.
Deadly Keepsakes is a modern recreation of the Gothic romantic suspense novel in the vein of such great authors as Phyllis A. Whitney or Daphne du Maurier. Rather than the setting of the big house on the dark, remote, craggy-cliffed island, author Anita Dickason has reimagined the genre by placing the story smack in the middle of hot and sunny, small-town Texas.
Dickason amps up the suspense from the very start with Tori fleeing her home in Springfield, only months after her mother's death, to escape the intimidation and revenge of the Russell family. But thankfully, Tori is a bright, capable, and determined heroine (unlike some of the fragile, helpless females of old), and she takes matters into her own hands to keep herself safe.
When she reaches her new town in Texas, she is immediately surrounded by the influential, successful people at the core of Granbury society: men who seem to feel they know more about what's in her best interests than she does. I was so glad to see her set them straight quick, fast, and in a hurry. Two handsome men are also personally interested in the new heiress, and both are deliciously suspicious. But our girl keeps a wary eye on them both, though. Even as she feels attracted to one, she doesn't let this blind her to his possible participation in the strange goings on. She keeps them both at arm's length as she figures things out.
Deviating from the Gothic romantic suspense formula, though, is the presence of Mia O'Brien and her posse of friends/employees. I enjoyed this group of young women so much with their camaraderie, witty banter, and we-got-your-back attitude. I loved how Mia knew everyone in town and all their business and background. She always "knew a guy" who could do whatever needed doing. She and the other women were a fun and entertaining support network and just what Tori needed.
I especially enjoyed the secrets the house held and Grandmother Elly's backstory with her family history of gambling, gunrunning, and liquor. Readers should be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book giving the story behind the fiction and its roots in the life and times of a real, local gangster from the area. I also felt the sadness of the tragic reasons Tori and her grandmother never met. In the end, Elly had everything but what she wanted most: her family.
With its fresh setting, strong heroine, excellent support characters, and solid, relentlessly evolving mystery, I recommend DEADLY KEEPSAKES to mystery readers, especially those who enjoy their stories with a lot of suspense and a touch of romantic suspense as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Award-winning author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, SWAT tactical officer, and the team’s first female sniper.
Anita’s extensive law enforcement experience and knowledge provide the inspiration for her plots, and characters. She writes about what she knows, cops and crime.
Her works have received multiple awards from Book Viral Millennium Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, Literary Titan Book Awards, Independent Author Network Book Awards, and Speak Up Talk Radio Firebird Award.
See my review of MURDER'S LEGACY (Book Two of the Tori Winters Mystery series) here!