“Diners, Dives and Dead Ends, A Rose Strickland Mystery “, the first book from Henery Press and author Terri L. Austin is a winner. I predict this will be a long and successful series.

The strength of this book lies in the characters. Rose, or Rosalyn as her parents call her, is the central character. Born to a wealthy family, her parents forced her to move out and pay for college herself when she wanted to change schools after her freshman year. Rose now supports herself as a waitress at Ma’s Dinner and attends Huntingford City College part time while deciding what to do with her life. Rose defines herself as a “twenty-four year old former rich girl who doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.” I liked Rose quite a bit, she had courage to stand up for herself and to make her own way in life. She is intelligent and loyal, both of which come to play in the book.

Other great characters surround Rose. Axton Graystone, one of Rose’s closest friends, goes missing early in the book. Axton, like Rose, is on the “outs” with his family. Rose describes him by saying, “We were both misfits, not to mention bitter disappointments to our respective parents – I loved him like a brother.” Stymied by lack of help from the police and Axton’s family, Rose decides to find Axton herself.

Rose’s best friend and co-worker, Roxie and the owner of the diner, Ma, a feisty women still working hard in her seventies assist her. She also gets some help from Axton’s IT co-workers and a former admirer, Dane, who is now a lawyer. On her journey to find Axton, Rose discovers political corruption, illegal gambling, and shady corporations. She experiences personal danger and threats against her friends and family.

The book explores interesting family dynamics, both with Rose’s family and with Axton Graystone. This exploration makes the book more than just a fun whodunit. It also forces us to look at our definition of success. Is Rose’s sister, Jacqueline, more successful because she was a people pleaser, who did what her mother wanted her to, so as to avoid conflict? Which sister is actually more successful and more capable? Likewise it is interesting to contrast both Axton and his brother Packard as to who is the truly the most successful child in the family.

I also love books where the characters aren’t all good and bad, but full of shades of gray. The moral issues continue up until the very end of the book, and I believe would be great for a book club to discuss. I hope that the author will add some book club questions for discussion to her web page.

With exploring family dynamics and moral issues, one would expect that this would be a “heavy” book. But I actually found it to be a fast paced read and there were some funny aspects of it too.

“Diners, Dives and Dead Ends” goes on sale July 17 and I strongly recommend picking a copy up to read this summer. I know I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.

Five stars out of five.

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In accordance with the FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge.  I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review.  All they expect is an honest review of the work.