Jennifer Patrick's The Night She Died is a mystery. No, it's love story. No, it's a dramatic presentation of the rivalry between friends who both think they are in love with the same woman.
Actually, it's all of the above.
The story opens with Lara Walton, an attractive young lady who was recently widowed when her husband was killed in an automobile accident. Lara moves from Washington, D.C. to a small town in Georgia, where she befriends Sterling O'Connor, a young man working two jobs to help out with the family. Sterlings' father deserted the family so Sterling works both at the Dairy Queen and in a record store to help make ends meet for his mother, younger sister and himself.
Eric, who owns the music store, notices Sterling's interest in the new woman in town but Eric is closer to her age than 17-year-old Sterling.
But it's Sterling that Laura hires to help with repairs and painting on the old house she recently bought.
Sterling, who has worked his way through most of the local high school girls, sees Lara as a challenge. But that soon changes as his feeling for her grow.
Both Eric and Sterling have their sights set on Lara and a rivalry begins that at times threatens their friendship. And local gossip has it that it might actually be Sterling that Eric really wants. As rumors about Lara and her relationship with both men circulate, tensions escalate. Several months pass and when Sterling turns 18, Lara gives him a present that he'll never forget.
But when Lara suddenly decides to return to Washington, D.C., the story takes a dramatic twist. She winds up dead after being shot in the back of her head and authorities wonder if either Eric or Sterling could have killed her in a fit of rage.
It's up to Capt. Jimmy Edgars to sort it all out. But the townspeople don't have a lot of confidence in Edgars since he hasn't investigated a murder in more than eight years.
Did an intruder kill Lara? Or did Sterling or Eric kill Lara in a jealous rage? Who could have possibly wanted her dead so bad they shot her six times in the head?
Patrick, a North Carolina native who now lives in Athens, Georgia, keeps readers turning the pages of this thrilling mystery. The characters are well-developed and the scenes are well-written. It's hard to believe this is Patrick's first novel. I can't wait to read her next one.
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