As usual, Claire Hamner Matturro's latest novel pays homage to the quirky Southern culture and complex legal world both she and her protagonist Lilly share, with a plot shot full of enough attorney adventures to satisfy die-hard legal thriller fans. But in her most poignant outing yet, Matturro tackles some tough family issues, albeit with her trademark humor, and conjures up a compelling case for the charm of small towns.
Set in Georgia, Sweetheart Deal takes Lilly Belle Rose Cleary away from her high-stress trial attorney world in Sarasota, Florida, and lands her back in her old hometown. A hometown Lilly has not set foot in--with good reason--since she graduated high school twenty years before. Despite her resolution to never go home again, Lilly can't refuse when her brother, Dan (the normal one), asks for help after their reclusive mother shoots a man in an apparent dispute over a freezer full of voodoo eggs. Lilly gets to Georgia just in time to discover the murder by sweet feed of her old high school sweetheart, a failed country singer turned county commissioner, in cahoots with some curious fellow conspirators. And then, there's a trio of teens who meddle and go missing, along with an albino ferret with Lassie fantasies.
If all this isn't enough to keep Lilly half crazy and too busy, someone tries to kill her strangely over-sedated mother with red ants, and there's that pesky lawsuit from back in Sarasota Lilly has to fix quickly with only her phone, her cunning, and her high tolerance for risk.
"A brassy, sassy, neurotic Sarasota attorney [Lilly Belle Cleary] returns to her backwater hometown to solve a murder and save her mother's life. ...Before she and her African-American best friend Shalonda can sort out everything that's rotten in Bugfest, they'll be involved with fire ants, smuggling, bribery and kidnapping. But Cleary never loses her gift for wry self-mockery, as when she confides that 'what had me worried was how quick I was getting down to my last box of Save the Forest Organic Trail Mix Bars.' Breezy and fun." Kirkus Review
"[Protagonist] Lilly is full of contradictions: germophobic at OCD levels and a terminal flirt, but brave and dead-on effective. Readers who prefer their heroines with an extra dose of sass will find a lot to like." Publishers Weekly
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Coming in September:
TROUBLE in TALLAHASSEE, a Familiar Legacy book,
published by KaliOka Press.
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Cover photograph by Becky Lindsey Shaw, used with permission.
Read more about Wayward Girls on the Bio Page.
Wayward Girls--First Place winner in Seven Hills Literary Contest, Young Adult, Dec. 2015
Wayward Girls--A First Place winner in its category in the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and Runner Up for their unpublished book of the year.
Coming soon--Refugees won First Place in Seven Hills Adult Fiction Literary Contest and Third Place in the Royal Palms Literary Contest
Can love and faith triumph over the devastation of war and reconstruction in the brutal landscape of 1865 Alabama?