All the Broken Girls by Linda Hurtado Bond
Murder and the ever-present threat of the evil eye create an atmospheric story of danger and dread.
Even with 11 Emmys to her credit, when a tip from a confidential informant leads to a lawsuit against the television station where she works, crime reporter Marisol ‘Mari’ Alvarez is put on probation, quickly becoming persona non grata. Her disgrace hits bottom when she returns to work, and the boss publicly pulls her from the crime beat, assigning her to cover fluff pieces and filler. But old habits die hard and on her way to her first feature assignment, a new baby sloth at Busch Gardens, Mari sidetracks to the scene of an unfolding murder investigation only blocks from her own home. If she gets on location before the police button down the crime scene, people are more willing to talk about what they know.
When she and her photographer, Orlando, arrive, they discover a woman had been gunned down at point blank range as she answered the door. Whoever committed the murder had placed a gold coin with a crown on it on one of the dead woman’s eyes, a possible sign that this was the work of the local gang, the West Tampa Kings. But for Mari, the murder becomes much more personal. The circumstances are eerily similar to those surrounding her own mother’s murder ten years earlier. Fearing the two crimes could be related, Mari worries that her mother’s unidentified killer has returned to their peaceful neighborhood.
All The Broken Girls was a fantastic thriller of a mystery! Mari, the disgraced reporter, had my complete and immediate sympathy. I admired how she kept her head up when all her coworkers were eyeing her, and her boss blamed her for the lawsuit when she knew she had the goods all along. I loved her relationship with her abuela and was fascinated by the inclusion of her practice of Santeria traditions, rituals, and belief system. I liked that Mari was clever and figured out the clues quicker than her police contacts. I felt her heartbreak as she identified with the two Rodriguez sisters and later discovered the betrayal of family members. I enjoyed the sprinkling of Spanish in her thoughts and dialogue throughout the story.
I also liked the police detective, Antonio ‘Tony’ Garcia, and the tension and eventual chemistry between the two main characters were fabulous. His family was delightful, especially his mother. I loved how she was so in charge of the family and her son. I liked how they and Mari’s family were such an integral part of their neighborhood.
The setting in West Tampa was unique, and I enjoyed the geographical mentions and the tantalizing inclusion of the market and other real places. The descriptions of the Cuban-American community were both colorful and comfortable. The subtle references to traditional foods and dishes teased me to find the nearest Cuban-influenced restaurant quick, fast, and in a hurry.
The action is constant, and I had trouble finding a good stopping point to put the book down. Consequently, I couldn’t leave the story alone for long; it was that absorbing and exciting. There was a sense of urgency to see what happened next. There was that feeling that whoever was behind the murders was watching the heroine, and something terrible would happen. With a creepy stalker dude hanging around somewhere just out of sight, mysterious and puzzling notes cropping up, and the ever-present threat of the evil eye, the story had a continuous atmosphere of danger and dread.
I recommend ALL THE BROKEN GIRLS to readers of mystery and thrillers who like strong female protagonists and those who would enjoy the Cuban-American flavor of its West Tampa setting.