Justice for Loretta, a Twisty, Cinematic Murder Mystery by LeeAnne James 

The Bottom Line: A methodical murder mystery with a shocking twist. 

Loretta Sampson Mills was no stranger to death. She saw her first death at age 13 when Timmy Rafferty was fatally injured on the playground. And when Loretta’s grandma came to live with them after falling ill to cancer, she moves into Loretta’s room. Then, Loretta is asked to do the unthinkable: end her suffering with a fatal dose of morphine. 

Author LeeAnne James wisely keeps the details of what happens next close to the vest, but gives us a glimpse into a fissure in Loretta’s psyche, as she approaches her grandmother’s death with a surprising dispassion. She’s eager to have her room back and annoyed that she had to miss school for funeral services.

In the early going, James uses time cinematically, cutting from era to era without lingering in any one time period for too long. Soon, we’re experiencing Loretta’s college years, when she meets campus heartthrob Carter. Here James begins layering detail about the nature of family, manifested in Loretta’s unspoken, dark indictment of Carter’s parents. Before long, the two are married with kids. Loretta eventually uncovers an affair and begins to unravel. But when she ends up dead, Carter is the prime suspect, and family secrets weave their way through the narrative like vines that slowly take hold before you realize what’s happened. 

As the police dig deep to uncover Loretta’s killer, an anonymous letter is delivered to the police declaring Loretta’s killer. Did Carter kill Loretta? If so, why? 

James has crafted a slow-burning murder mystery that gradually builds suspense. Patient readers are rewarded with a shocking twist that blows the lid off the carefully constructed family dynamics explored throughout the book.

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