Harmful Intent, by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press, 2014)
Brooklyn PI Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels is self-confident, determined, and she knows how to stand up for herself – at least when she’s on her home turf. When she discovers her husband’s infidelity, she flees to Texas to process the hurt before she has to face him, only to become a person of interest in his murder.
Local Deputy Dawson Hughes doesn’t think Ronnie had anything to do with her husband’s death, and they develop an uneasy working relationship to find the killer. Hughes is picking up the pieces after a messy divorce, and Ronnie’s reeling from the double blow of betrayal and widowhood, but there are definitely sparks between these two.
Harmful Intent is the start of a new, contemporary series from Nike Chillemi, a departure from her 1940s-era Sanctuary Point romantic suspense series. I’m intrigued by her vision for this new series, featuring couples who will sometimes appear as minor characters in other couples’ stories. The plots are suspense with romantic threads, but weaving across these threads are others from the characters’ past hurts. Each of the main characters carries, like many readers, wounds from their childhood which keep them from being all they could be.
Ronnie’s father cheated on her mother, and realizing she married the same type of creep herself helps Ronnie to understand her mother differently. This type of character growth is organic to the story, never overshadowing the suspense plot.
Harmful Intent is not an overtly Christian book, although there are faith overtones. Ronnie and Hughes each find themselves in places in life where faith doesn’t come easy. The character of Bertha is a Christian, and I love this exchange between the two women when Ronnie finds Bertha reading a Bible before bed:
[Bertha] patted my cheek. “What puzzles me is why folks who deny the Lord get mad thinkin’ His promises might not include them. That don’t make a lick of sense to me.”
I stood. “I don’t deny the Lord.”
She gazed up at me with a mother’s kindness. “Then there’s more for you than you know in this book.” [Kindle location 942]
Harmful Intent is a novel with a strong sense of place. The Texas locale feels authentic (to this Canadian) and the details of scenes set in the spa, shooting range and various eating establishments bring those scenes to life. Here’s an interesting post by the author on how she researched the setting’s dialect: Dialect ~ Lend Me Thine Ear.
Ronnie and Hughes are well-matched sparring partners, and I think if they can work through the issues keeping them apart, they’ll make a truly happy couple. We’ll have to wait for the next installment to find out, since Harmful Intent takes place over a short period of weeks after Ronnie’s cheating ex’s death.
For more about author Nike Chillemi and her books, visit her website: nikechillemi.wordpress.com
[Review copy from my personal library.]