When You Find Me by P.J. Vernon - Gray Godfrey is home for Christmas. Gray and her husband, Paul, have traveled from Washington, D.C. to Elizabeth, South Carolina. Her ancestral home is Piper Point:
Named for the sandpipers and killdeer that flitted about the property, Piper Point was a white antebellum with a double wraparound porch. Six Corinthian columns supported a steep roof dotted with has as many dormers.
Up close the home has a fading elegance. Maintenance has been inadequate.
Mamma, Joanna King, is irritated her Hummingbird has been drinking on the way home
Paul is a “lobbyist for a clean energy think tank, Cooper and Walters”. He is contemplating a run for Congress. As a liberal Democrat he is in foreign country on the rural coast of South Carolina.
He has become increasingly emotional abusive to Gray. Alcohol is her defence.
Nearby Nina Palmer is staying with Aunt Tilda whose in her final days from pancreatic cancer. Nina is a detective at the Elizabeth County Sheriff’s Department. Being black and a woman has meant constant challenges moving ahead in the Sheriff’s office.
Aunt Tilda had killed a presidential run by Gray’s father, Congressman Seamus King, when she, while working for Gray’s family 20 years ago, secretly recorded a racist rant he made to her.
Since Tilda has not worked for the family in 20 years Tina cannot understand why the King family has sent her a cheque for $1,000 marked severance. Reviewing account records the cheques come every four months.
After Christmas Eve services at the Blessed Lamb Baptist Church Gray, Paul and her sister, Charlotte, join the hometown and returnee crowd at Ruby’s. Gray succeeds in getting drunk. She close dances with and then enjoys a kiss with an old friend, the handsome Jacob Wilcox. Paul sees them and is upset.
Early in the morning the County police find Paul’s rental car abandoned on a highway with the door open and no Paul. They decide to wait for a King to call them.
Gray wakes up Christmas morning with a brutal hangover and no memory of anything past the confrontation after the kiss.
Alcohol has taken over her life. When she is denied all access to alcoholic beverages by her mother she drinks a bottle of vanilla extract.
Paul is not at Piper’s Point and has not returned by noon or afternoon or evening.
Gray is left a mysterious phone message about Paul by an Annie on a blocked phone. Annie ends the message:
“There’s something going on here you don’t know.
Nina leads the police investigation. Her position is awkward because of her aunt’s actions.
There is an unspoken sense of satisfaction that she, a black woman from a modest family, is investigating the local aristocracy.
The investigation inexorably turns to the issues of family history. There are secrets long buried.
The ending was well done and unexpected for me.
The back cover says Vernon is “an insatiable reader of suspense and domestic noir”. When You Find Me fits into what he loves to read.
It is a good first book. The story flows swiftly and easily.