The main character, Mabel Davison, is the star of this novel. She’s a down-to-earth single mum and a waitress. She owns the diner and an attached motel, but she isn’t rolling in money. Mabel works hard and long and tries to raise her kids right. But if anyone lives the expression’ heart of gold’ it’s Mabel. Caring for others is a huge part of her character.
So when there’s a murder in the town of Blue River and the local police pick up a young black teen who Mabel believes to be innocent, she speaks up. And she speaks loud.
The town of Blue River is small and depressed, and built along a highway that leads from “nowhere to nowhere fast”. Sure, it has a logging industry, a marijuana industry, and…is there a third burgeoning harder drugs industry? But on the whole, the town is on Struggle Street. There are also a whole lot of questions regarding who is really running Blue River. Is the one local cop in control? Or does Larson, a man controlling the towns drug trade, along with his gang of strong arms—made up of a significant number of white supremacists—really in control of things?
The thing about Mabel is, she doesn’t back down when she sees a wrong. Even when she turns amateur sleuth, and things get dangerous. There were times when I found her decisions excruciating – yet I couldn’t help but love the hell out of her.
This book is set in the 80s. Readers who lived through the 80s (like me, ahem), and those interested in that particular decade will enjoy that aspect.
Another wonderful thing about Heart of a Runaway Girl is that, in terms of genre, it sits in a lovely little niche spot. It’s beyond cosy mystery but doesn’t take its thrills so far as to become one of those novels that leave you feeling wounded. I have a soft spot for those.
I didn’t realise when I began reading that Wiltzen has more Mabel escapades on the way. But as this story is driven by Mabel and her character, finding that out was very welcome because this first book earned every star.
Many thanks to Net Galley and the author Trevor Wiltzen for my copy of this novel, given in return for my honest review.
Also published on my blog: The Long Hot Spell