Monday, November 08, 2021

Third Detective Betty Rhyzyk Investigation, THE PLEDGE by Kathleen Kent

Fathers and daughters. In a swift opening chapter that has more action and revelation than many a crime novel might witness in fifty pages, Texas/New York author Kathleen Kent turns her red-haired police detective Betty Rhyzyk toward family redemption. Oh, probably not hers—unless you believe the voice of her deceased Uncle Benny nudging her along is more than just in her head—but how can she not follow up on the disappearance of the mom of a seven-month-old, much-loved baby? 

Especially when the street-rescued mom and the bright baby have been living with Betty and her life partner, Jackie, in their Dallas home.

But for the moment, that's going on hold, because Betty's needed for a downtown hostage situation with other kids at risk. Why her? Sinaloan enforcer El Cuchillo has a message for only Betty. In THE DIME and THE BURN, Betty's met El Cuchillo under nasty circumstances, including his effort to burn her alive. After all, his interests involve the Dallas drugs underworld. And as a police detective, Betty's been more than a nuisance to El Cuchillo.

But this time, the Sinaloan intends to use her as a weapon against his own competition, on the old theory of "the enemy of my enemy." Who's he aiming her at? Shudder ... Evangeline Roy, leader of a truly evil cult that in turn is cutting into the drug territory. 

And now the point of the book's opening with the baby being fostered in Betty's home comes through with all the force of a shotgun:

"Again," I say, "why don't you get one of your men to take care of it?" ...

"Evangeline is in Texas for two reasons. One, to set up operations. And two, to settle a score with you for the death of her sons. And she will want to make it as painful for you as possible."

He pauses a moment to let that sink in. "If I were betting, my money would be on you, Sergeant. I believe that you can win this battle. ... You are now the guardian of a new infant. A baby girl."

Just like that, Betty and her family of choice enter as pawns in a brutal war of pyschopaths for drug territory in Texas. Even assuming she can do what El Cuchillo wants from her, is there any way to protect her people -- and also do the job she's committed to performing?

Fair warning, there's a lot of violence and threat in THE PLEDGE. But there's also an unexpected amount of affection and respect, and a throughline of strong women who do what has to be done, with or without backing from the fathers in their lives and hearts. 

Kent's earlier novels in this trilogy gained nominations for the Edgar Award. THE PLEDGE belongs on that list, too; carve out time to read it this season, and you'll be ahead of the line when those nominations get listed in early 2022. 

Published by Mulholland Books, and released last week in both hardcover and ebook.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.


Unknown said...

Beth, thanks so much for the wonderful review of The Pledge! It's greatly satisfying when a reviewer does a deep dive into a novel.

Beth Kanell said...

It was a pleasure. And this is a book worth re-reading.