Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
by Denise Grover Swank
Copyright © July 2011
$14.99 Paperback 372 pages
$0.99 Kindle 587KB
For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone's toilet's overflowed, but she's never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.
Rose realizes she's wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true . She's well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won't help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe's new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty secrets of his own.
Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they'll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn't her biggest worry after all.
I think I've said this before, but I love mysteries. I cut my reading teeth on the cozies of Agatha Christie -- I have read every single one more times than I or anyone else can count -- and it didn't stop there. After mastering the entire Christie collection, I moved on to the works of P. D. James and her Adam Dalgliesh series, got hooked by Elizabeth Peters and the capers of Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby, love the animal antics of Rita Mae Brown's books written with Sneaky Pie Brown, and have shivered through many a Mary Higgins Clark, and in recent years have added Linda Welch's paranormal mysteries to my "must have" list.
While my list is a little less than comprehensive, you get the picture. And now, I must add another to the must have list, and that is the southern mystery of Denise Grover Swank's Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes and her main character, Rose Gardner. As you might be able to tell from my listed reading selections above, I enjoy the characters as much if not more than the mystery aspect. And I'll admit to loving the fluffy grandmotherly Miss Marple more than the efficient, symmetrically-driven Poirot -- although I enjoy both. And with Rose Gardner, Swank gives us a character to root for. Through the book, we get to watch Rose blossom into the woman she wants to become. After being kept firmly under her mother's thumb for twenty-four years, Rose has had enough. She's had enough of the small town of Henryetta pointing their fingers at her until she shrinks into the background, she's had enough of having to hide the person she is inside, and as with all "breaking out" situations, sometimes it takes a bit of forcefulness to make it happen. And with Rose there is no exception.
Only not everyone chooses to break out and start living their life on their own terms at the same time their mother is murdered. And then there's Joe, the cute next-door neighbor, who wants to help her through the situation of being accused of murdering her own mother, but can she trust him? And of course, there is the whole having-seen-your-own-death-in-a-vision thing -- and Rose is never wrong in what she sees. The list is a delightful, and yet sometimes bittersweet, and provides the backbone to the story.
I don't want to give any spoilers, but will say that Swank gives us a character to identify with and takes us on a ride with more curves and twists than a backwoods mountain trail. I read this on Kindle and it is a rare occurrence, but I purchased it in print, so I can have the author sign it when I see her in person.