Tess Camillo is many things. A lesbian, a computer programmer, a breast cancer survivor, and a would-be detective investigating murders. In this secon...moreTess Camillo is many things. A lesbian, a computer programmer, a breast cancer survivor, and a would-be detective investigating murders. In this second book by author Morgan Hunt, Tess finds herself tied into a murder when she goes for a hike and discovers a crucified body. The corpse turns out to be Cody Crowne, a folk rocker who opened for Gabrielle Leatheross at a concert the previous night. Both Tess and her straight new-age massage therapist, certified herbalist and Tai Chi instructor roommate, and ex-lover, Lana were in the audience of that concert. Lana has adored rocker Cody Crowne for years, and the news of his death shocks her and spurs Tess into action.
Tess uses her many connections with the music scene and the police force, and her ex-husband, to gather information and follow up on leads, trying to identify Crowne's killer. Along the way she attends a cocktail party full of Hollywood music elite and ends up falling for one of them, visits a church where one of the members takes crucifixion a bit too seriously, visits Legoland (possibly my absolute favorite part as a Lego fanatic), rides a carousel a dizzying number of times, and travels all over San Diego following up on clues. In the end, Tess chases proof of her suspicions and enlists Lana's help, getting them both mixed up with a killer and fighting to avoid the same fate as Crowne.
Fool on the Hill is a humorous and engaging mystery story with a phenomenal main character that I adored from the very beginning. Although this is the second tale in the series focused on Tess Camillo, at no point did I feel lost or lacking information since I haven't read the first book. Hunt does a wonderful job of providing just the information you need to understand the characters and I was immersed in the book quickly.
This is a mystery through and through, but what I loved about it is the depth and well-developed characterization of Tess. She is a complex character who has been through so much in her life, and it colors every experience. She has learned the hard way to live every day to the fullest and she does so, with her beloved roommate by her side. Tess has a brilliant sense of humor that is injected into every scene and makes for an exceptionally fun read. She has conversations with her dog Raj and makes pop culture references and light remarks on what she observes, all of which keep the story from becoming too serious and provide for lots of laughs.
Tess is also a breast cancer survivor and this, of course, affects many aspects of her life. This side of the character was beautifully handled, with realism and care no doubt inspired by the author's own experiences, and it is captivating to see how Tess has overcome so much. A mastectomy and breast reconstruction will inevitably affect a woman deeply, especially when it comes to sexual relationships, and Hunt doesn't shy away from these aspects of her character. There is an inner strength that Tess possesses which is evident on every page, and seeing her struggle slightly with self-confidence issues related to her breast cancer is poignant and moving.
This story is filled with a wonderful cast of secondary characters that I enjoyed, from Tess's ex-husband Roark, neighbor Smacker, Detective Kari Dixon, and of course roommate Lana. All provide additional humor and assistance to Tess in her search for the killer. The relationships all help to make Tess even more relatable, with a fascinating and detailed past. Lana especially shines in the story ~ she is the antithesis of Tess in so many ways but together they fit beautifully. There is some heartache on Tess's part by yearning for a woman that is hopelessly straight, but she loves Lana and most importantly wants her to be happy. I truly enjoyed how these two women play off of each other, feeding off their different approaches to things. It's a beautiful friendship and one that is a joy to watch.
This is a phenomenal story with a truly exceptional character ~ once I started reading I didn't want to put it down! I will most definitely be seeking out the other two books in the series and will be waiting impatiently for more mysteries. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a strong female character with a brilliant view on life that will have you both smiling and laughing out loud. This story ends with a wonderful line that has stuck with me, "Yes, every story has a happy ending, if you know precisely when to stop." Filled with meaning, it is a poignant ending, but I can only hope that the author has plans to provide many more Tess Camillo stories in the future.(less)
What happens when you mix database programming, ex-Navy, breast cancer, lesbian, and amateur detective together? You get Tess Camillo, main character of Morgan Hunt's mystery series. I came to this series a little backward, having read the second book in the series first. I enjoyed the character so much I purchased the other books featuring this phenomenal character.
This book begins with Tess discovering a rattlesnake under her bed at her home in San Diego. When a woman is later found dead of a bite from the most venomous of snakes, Tess can't help but draw connections between the two incidents. Tess's naturally inquisitive nature leads her to hunt down different clues to the murder, in an attempt to help the police investigation and stay safe. When a lump is discovered in Tess's breast, the mystery whodunit becomes a much-needed distraction, and Tess ends up even more involved than she would have liked.
Sticky Fingers is a fast-paced and enjoyable read. The crux of this lies in the character of Tess and her wonderfully humorous and engaging voice. You come to care for this woman quickly and as a result become invested in her story from the beginning. They resolution to the mystery is a surprise, something that's truly key as too often the answers are revealed to readers much too early. The writing is clean and well executed, making this story a joy to read.
Though this book is a mystery, an important subplot is Tess's battle with breast cancer. It's obvious that the author's own experiences have informed what Tess is going through as these parts of the story have an inherent realism and truth to them. This is the one area of the book that I wish has been more of a focus of the book. This is first and foremost a mystery story, but breast cancer has such an impact on Tess and her outlook on life that it felt a bit too glossed over. Surely there is a fine line between enough and too much information before distracting from the mystery aspect, but from my perspective the author easily could have included more of the cancer subplot without crossing that line.
What I like so much about Tess is that she is a woman that many will recognize. She's a bit older, a size 16, has fallen in and out of love, gets horny and satisfies those needs. Within this story, Tess has a date that's a thinly veiled cover for a booty call, which is both a bit humorous and a turning point for Tess as the date notices changes in Tess's appearance. Tess also still fosters quite a flame for her ex and roommate Lana, who has unfortunately decided she's straight. I look forward to seeing how their relationship will change over the course of the series. Tess is a woman you can easily relate to, with an inner strength, sense of humor, and presence that many hope to possess.
The secondary characters that I loved so much from the second book are all introduced here, including roommate Lana, Tess's ex Detective Kari Dixon, and ex-husband Roark. The relationship Tess has with each person helps to flesh out her characterization even further. Even the dogs Raj and Pookie add color to the story. This being the first in the series, this book focuses more on Tess and less on the others, but that is expected as we're just being introduced to this woman we will be following over several books.
Overall this is a strong beginning to a series focusing on a lesbian amateur sleuth with a complicated life. Tess battles breast cancer, and has her outlook on life challenged as a result, but finds an inner strength that helps her persevere both in her recovery and in tracking down the person responsible for murder. Witty dialogue and a wonderful cast of characters make this a book recommended for all readers.(less)