Kirkus Reviews Deadly Focus!

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Chasing the truth about her uncle’s death, a gutsy television news photographer uncovers corruption and finds love in this debut thriller.

On assignment covering a man threatening to leap from atop a Hollywood hotel, Lucy Vega, a photographer for a local TV news station, realizes she knows the potential jumper. Naked and high on meth, Gary Mercer, the station’s former head of photography, comes off the ledge thanks to Lucy’s coaxing. Safely inside but crazed, he admits to Lucy a past crime—his mother didn’t die because of a fall; he murdered her by throwing her down the stairs. Afterward, he denies his confession and turns on Lucy because she knows the truth. A year later, working for heroin kingpin Luis Alvarez, who’s “kind of an El Chapo meets Al Capone,” Mercer learns that Lucy’s Uncle Henry, representing California in economic talks in Mexico City, has become a problem for the drug honcho’s operation. Mercer volunteers to eliminate Henry, making his death look like a car accident. Henry raised Lucy since she was orphaned as a child, and his death devastates her. She starts digging into the circumstances surrounding his crash. After killing Henry, Mercer accepts Alvarez’s diabolical assignment involving chemical companies linked to pharmaceutical subsidiaries. Lucy begins connecting the dots, and her investigations into Mercer’s and Alvarez’s activities get more dangerous, but she does share lighthearted times with her colleague Bea Middleton, a divorced mother of two. Bea’s love of pole dancing and designer duds makes her an unlikely best bud for no-nonsense Lucy, but the pair clicks. Lucy also eventually clicks with a new man, but will he be blue-eyed, former Special Ops soldier Brent Lucas or handsome documentarian Michael Burleson? Hinkin, a former TV news photographer, skillfully portrays irredeemable characters as well as likable but flawed ones in this first installment of the Vega and Middleton Mystery series. There’s a healthy mix of ethnicities, ages, and religions (at the news station’s holiday party, the executive playing Santa alternates his red cap with a blue yarmulke). Descriptions are vivid; a line of taillights becomes “a blood red trail creeping east.” Although the story moves briskly, editing could bring the 400-plus page count down considerably with no noticeable omissions. And despite the series title, this tale is more about Vega than Middleton. Still, the book is a promising debut.

An exciting series opener that delivers murder, drugs, and romance.