The Bottom Line: Lovable amateur sleuths take on Big Pharma in a highly personal and poignant mystery about corporate greed and friendship.
After the murder of a veteran reporter David Pine, amateteur sleuths Bea Middleton and Lucy Vega are drawn into the likely reason for his death: an in-progress story about big pharma selling generic medicine with little or no active ingredients to the poorest countries, states and counties.
The core of the potential Big Pharma scandal is sleazeball Brandon Doyle. A former LA prosecutor now running for Senate, the deceased reporter not only had him linked to the drug scandal, but also for sexual abuse for minors. In Doyle, author Sue Hinkin has created a villian that readers will simply love to hate.
Pine was so convinced his life was in danger that he dropped a thumb drive with mountains of material to a confidante just hours before his death. Horrified at the thought of more people suffering and dying, and at the thought of Pine’s murder going unsolved, Bea and Lucy get hold of the data – some of which will require the assistance of a Chinese translator – and decide to go undercover.
While Hinkin’s followup to The Mermaid Broker reveals much of the villainy in the book’s early chapters, she creates sweat-inducing tension through the substantial risks her heroines take to right a global wrong. Along the way, Bea and Lucy prove their savvy at persuading others to put their lives on the line as well (Lucy: “This isn’t a movie starring one of your clients. This is the real deal. No theme music, no popcorn, just messy possibilities”).
Those risks are amplified by the humanity Hinkin brings to the duo. That’s especially true for Lucy, an Emmy winner who also teaches photojournalism at Santa Monica High School – all while being a mother. Adding to the considerable weight on her shoulders, Lucy is faced with a personal dilemma that forces her to choose between her life in LA and a new one in New York. The decision adds stress to her friendship with Bea, who becomes increasingly emotional by the possibility of her BFF leaving for good (“I have two exes that’re history, kids who have moved on, and now my best friend is abandoning me”). While Hinkin’s mystery is gripping enough on its own terms, Bea and Lucy’s personal lives take center stage in this poignant story about friendship and loyalty that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next series installment.