The first book in the Deadwood Mysteries series is Nearly Departed in Deadwood, and the second is Optical Delusions in Deadwood.
Characters and events from the previous books are mentioned casually thoughout DEAD CASE, so it is best to read the books in order.
Cornelius, a rather eccentric man from Las Vegas, comes into Calamity Jane's Reality and asks to see Violet Parker. He is looking to buy property in Deadwood - and by property I mean that he wants to buy a local hotel.
Needless to say this is a huge coup, so huge that Violet's colleague Ray immediately asks their boss Jane if he can take over. Since Violet can't stand Ray, she digs in her heels and reminds everyone that Cornelius specifically requested her for the job. Baring that in mind, Jane has to allow Violet to continue. However she does warn Violet that if she refuses the help and then loses the huge sale, then Jane won't be able to afford to keep her employed.
This being Violet, naturally means that things won't be as simple as viewing the hotel with Cornelius and then collecting the money. Cornelius is a ghost hunter and wants to to buy the hotel only if it's proven to be haunted. And since Violet is widely (but incorrectly) rumoured to be able to communicate with ghosts, she had better be able to rustle some up somehow, if she wants Cornelius to sign on the dotted line. Deceive a customer or lose her job and be unable to provide for her children?
Also on Violet's plate; she has long suspected Ray and the local undertakers of selling body parts on the black market and she is now determined to get to the bottom of the mystery once and for all, in the hope that Ray will end up in jail and out of her way forever.
Elsewhere; Violet's friend Harvey finds a dead body on his property - and it is holding one of Violet's business cards. Who is the dead man and how/why does he apparently know her?
Violet has lots of different things going on in this book, apart from the mysteries of the dead body and the possible grave robbers. There's the drama of her worries at work; can she lie to a potential customer, her bigger concern of losing her job and being unable to provide for her children, and then there's the ever worsening daily battles with Ray. Plus theres the issue of the dead body, which is bringing the past horrors that Violet has been through back to the forefront
Then there are all of the complications in her personal life as she tries to decide whether to finish her secret romance, or if it is worth possibly ruining her friendship with her best-friend-since-childhood Natalie over? Then again her boyfriend is starting to become fed up of sneaking around and being her dirty little secret, so maybe he'll be the one to end the relationship...
Meanwhile Violet's problems are having effects on people around her. Her ten year old daughter Addy wrongly believes that Violet is dating her best friend's father, so is now convinced that she is getting a sister and a Dad in the near future. On the other hand Addy's twin brother, Layne, is used to being the man of the house because the children have never had a father, and so he begins to act out at the possibility that he'll be replaced.
Doc is also suffering from recent developments with Violet and their friendship. Rightly or wrongly he does believe that he can sense ghosts, but is growing wary of Violet's requests for his help, when she doesn't know if ghosts exist. In other words; he knows that she is merely humouring him, whilst still taking his help all of the time.
I also liked that Ray got to do more then hang around Calamity Jane's and argue with Violet in this book, but is he really selling body parts, or is Violet's dislike of him colouring her judgement? I hope that he continues to grow in future books, as I find the character fascinating.
Violet's boss Jane is given more page time too, as we see her turn to the bottle as her third divorce from another money grabbing ex grows increasingly ugly. Now all we need is a little more show time for Violet's other colleague [and mentor] Mona and every recurring character in the books will have been fully fleshed out and have lives of their own, outside of Violet.
After introducing a paranormal aspect in the first book of the series, the author takes a risk and twists the direction again. I think it is a bit of a risk, as whilst I loved it here as it was completely unexpected, it will reset the reality and tone of the future books in the series.
As always; one of the book's biggest strengths is how the author weaves in several threads, which will be parts of a few different ongoing story arcs. The basic plot opens and concludes in this one book, but these cleverly inserted threads offer intriguing glimpses into the mysteries surrounding Deadwood, which will control the directions of future books and leave readers thinking about the books after they've finished reading them, as we try to piece things together.
DEAD CASE is slightly different to the other books in the series, as we now see one of the interconnecting mysteries resolved, so the reader feels contented after having received the answers to three books worth of unanswered questions. Of course, another two ongoing subplots begin in it's place, and with a WTF ending to boot, I'm still left on tenterhooks whilst we wait for book four. I also think, that whilst the first two books in the series are humorous, DEAD CASE pushes the humour up a notch. It has plenty of one-liners and a few scenes that made me literally laugh out loud; I was still snickering hours later.
Kindle and ebook.
Book four: Better Off Dead in Deadwood (January 1213)