A good day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones

A good day for Chardonnay by New York Times best-selling author Darynda Jones is the second novel in her ridiculous Sunshine Vicram mystery series in Del Sol, New Mexico.

The follow-up to the sensational A bad day for the sunshine solves many of the intriguing plot points that were first sown in its predecessor, though it does reveal some brand new mysteries centered around the quirky New Mexico city of Del Sol.

Not long ago, Sunshine Vicram was surprised to hear that she had been elected sheriff in her hometown, especially since she had not known she had initially run for election. But her aging parents had been so proud of themselves for getting Sunshine to the position that she had resigned her job as a police officer in Santa Fe and moved with her teenage daughter, Auri, back to a place they had normally only used their summers. Over a decade earlier, Sunshine had fled Del Sol in the wake of a traumatic abduction that came nine months before Auris’ birth. Her memories of the incident are still obscured, as is the identity of Auris’ father.

But Sunshine has learned to live with it and formed a strong bond with both Auri and her own parents to become the best person, mother and cop she can be. It helps that she is still close to many members of the Del Sol community, though not everyone is excited about her return. Mayor Donna Lomas is particularly deeply skeptical of Sunshine and is not using her position to bolster her new sheriff to investigate a pet project of hers, the legendary Dangerous Daughters.

Sun had heard rumors about the infamous group of women who had come together to lead the city at a time when only men were allowed to sit on the council. It all seemed pretty farfetched. Even though they had existed, they certainly did not now. That was decades ago.

The mayor, however, seemed obsessed with them, and part of the woman’s condition to stay out of the mountain of dirt that constituted Sun’s past was that Sun should uncover the members of the secret group. Their negotiations and general course of action.

However, all of Sunshine’s other cases go back when a man is stabbed outside a bar owned by her longtime flame, Levi Ravinder. At first, she was afraid that the victim was Levi, and she then discovered that Levi not only takes the stab from his friend personally, but also insists on investigating the attack himself, even though he knocked while fending off the attackers.

But her concerns about Levi’s health are nothing compared to the sheer terror she will feel when her own daughter’s decision to reopen an old serial killer investigation also puts Auri in mortal danger. It starts innocently enough with Auri searching her grandparents’ collection of old newspaper clippings and reading about a series of disappearances from decades earlier that were attributed to a passing drifter. Convinced that Hercules Holmes was wrongfully accused, and that the venerable, if a little dotted series barge, Mrs. Fairborn was actually responsible, she decides to get her own version of justice. She just needs a little help from her best friend.

[“]I think Mrs. Fairborn was a serial killer before they even called them serial killers. ”

“Wow,” Sybil said, just as fascinated. “Wait, what did they call serial killers before that?”

Auri shrugged. “Maybe pancake killers? Bacon-and-egg killers? ”

They giggled and only became sober when a thought hit Auri like a line drive in a major league match. “I think we need to look into it,” she said.

“Really? Can we do that?”

“Yeah. My mom does it every day. How hard can it be?”

Very hard, as the ruthless Auri will discover. That’s weird A good day for Chardonnay emphasizes how detective work should only be carried out by intelligent and skilled people, as the effort is otherwise far too high. People can be seriously injured and it is a terrible thing to restore generational damage that should not be romanticized.

Fortunately, the gloomy subject is raised by Darynda Jones’ trademark wit as well as by romances, both steamy and sweet. In addition to solving the crimes that currently plague Del Sol, Sunshine rests several demons from the past as she finally remembers the truth about who abducted her and who Auris’ father really is. It’s a satisfying wrapping of the mysteries that are astonishingly open in the series’ first book, while also laying the groundwork for more hijinks to come in the next.

Check out Janet Webb’s review of the first Sunshine Vicram mystery, A bad day for the sunshine!

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