Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties
Lori Armstrong
PI Julie Collins Series/Book 1
Medallion Press/May 1, 2005

Julie Collins is stuck in a dead-end secretarial job with the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s office, and still grieving over the unsolved murder of her Lakota half-brother. Lack of public interest in finding his murderer, or the killer of several other transient Native American men, has left Julie with a bone-deep cynicism she counters with tequila, cigarettes, and dangerous men. The one bright spot in her mundane life is the time she spends working part-time as a PI with her childhood friend, Kevin Wells. 

When the body of a sixteen-year old white girl is discovered in nearby Rapid Creek, Julie believes this victim will receive the attention others were denied. Then she learns Kevin has been hired, mysteriously, to find out where the murdered girl spent her last few days. Julie finds herself drawn into the case against her better judgment, and discovers not only the ugly reality of the young girl’s tragic life and brutal death, but ties to her and Kevin’s past that she is increasingly reluctant to revisit. 

On the surface the situation is eerily familiar. But the parallels end when Julie realizes some family secrets are best kept buried deep. Especially those serious enough to kill for.

I've read Lori Armstrong's two Mercy Gunderson mysteries, enjoyed them.  So when the suggested topic of non-romance came up for this month's challenge it seemed like a good idea to give Armstrong's Julie Collins series a try.  If you're not much for mysteries but enjoy erotic cowboy romances, Lori Armstrong also writes steamy, sexy cowboy romances under the name Lorelei James.

So, it turns out the Julie Collins series was a mixed bag for me.  I found the story interesting but the characters, well, I can't think of any that I liked.  As in, would like to hang out with in real life.  Julie is a mess in both her personal life and her professional life.  She is 34 but acts much younger, turning to the bottle for her comfort when her one and only friend Kevin, isn't always available to keep her company.  They have an odd relationship, friends since they were kids, with some attraction going on but they're too afraid to act on it.  Plus, they're both seeing other people. 

The mystery had clues all over the place but piecing them together took a lot of doing.  There were times when it felt like Julie and Kevin were running around in circles, overlooking some obvious leads.  I was also surprised at how much Kevin had Julie doing when it didn't seem she had very much training.   Julie does have this uncanny ability to attract trouble.  Her smart mouth doesn't help but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her and wish she would not push people so much.  She's hit, punched and smacked around a number of times.  The way Julie reacts to the violence is telling in how she isn't shocked so much as practically expecting it.

As the story progresses, Julie reveals and relives more of her past and we get to see why she acts the way she does.  I do hope she learns to value herself more as the series advances.  She has potential to become not only a likeable character but one the reader could actually root for.  Even without feeling any personal connection with a character, the story kept me reading, wanting to know the answers to the many questions of the murders and how everything connected.   For now, I'm curious to see where Julie takes her relationships and her career.

Rating: B-

PI Julie Collins Series ~

Blood Ties
Hallowed Ground
Shallow Grave
Dead Flowers novella (Guns and Roses anthology)
Snow Blind


  1. Sweet, Leslie! I know this was a mixed bag for you, but you know what? I've been reading a lot of mysteries and suspense lately and this sounds interesting to me. :) Thanks for the review.

  2. B- isn't that bad. I guess the author did something right if you're curious about the other books :) Although yeah, from your description, the characters don't seem very likable.

  3. Hils ~ Hope you enjoy it Hils!

    Nath ~ Yep, that's why the B- instead of a C. I want to read the next one, maybe in the hopes I'll get to liking the characters. LOL

  4. What a creepy cover! I bet you'll come to like Julie more as you read more of the series.. probably because you'll come to understand her better and your empathy for her will increase. I find that happens to me when I read mysteries or crime fiction featuring the same heroine. I think authors tend to reveal those characters more slowly over time than we typically see in romance.