Andie Stern thought she’d solved her final homicide. Once a budding FBI profiler, she gave up her career to raise her four (soon to be five) children in West Windsor, New Jersey. But one day, between soccer games and trips to the local pool, Andie pulls into a gas station – and stumbles across a murder scene. An attendant has been killed, and the bumbling local cops are in way over their heads. Suddenly, Andie is obsessed with the case, and back on the trail of a killer, this time with kids in tow.
She soon crosses paths with disgraced local journalist Kenny Lee, who also has everything to prove in solving the case. A string of unusual occurrences – and, eventually, body parts – surfaces around town, and Andie and Kenny uncover simmering racial tensions and a decades-old conspiracy.
A huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Suburban Dicks is a hard-hitting and thought-provoking story that revolves around a deep-rooted murder mystery.
Andrea Stern unknowingly disturbs a crime scene where a young Indian gas attendant has been murdered. While the police consider it to be a robbery that went badly wrong, Andie suspects the attendant was murdered to cover up a long-buried secret. Andie teams up with local journalist Kenneth Lee to solve the murder, but they soon realise the case is linked to simmering racial tensions and a decades-old conspiracy. Although the story tackles serious issues like institutional racism and leaves you in a somber mood, there’s also plenty of entertaining moments as Andie has to juggle her husband and children as she investigates the murder.
Andie and Kenny are two very compelling characters for entirely different reasons. Andie was on a promising career path and set to join the FBI as a criminal profiler, but she gave it up when she became pregnant and decided to be a stay-at-home mother while her husband went out to work. Now, at 33, and with her fifth child on the way, Andie realises how much she’s been forced to give up in her marriage and the parts of herself that she’s lost. You can see how alive she becomes when she works the case and her personality really shines through. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and in between babysitting her four children and giving her husband a lift to work, this case gives her respite from the mundane reality of motherhood and provides her with something to really sink her teeth into. Casual chats with friends and family reveal that institutional racism is still very much alive in this community and Andie can’t help but think that it’s somehow tied to the murder of the gas station attendant.
Andie is a very likeable character because she’s funny, honest and caring. She accepted that she was investigating this case because it’s who she is however, she also cares about the victim’s family and bringing the killers to justice. She wasn’t going to be bulled into silence and instead fights back. In her home life, she feels it’s unfair that she’s had to give up so much and missed out on so many opportunities, while her husband has continued to work. While she loves her kids, she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life looking after them and never getting to do anything for herself. I really admired her throughout and I’d love to see more of her in the future.
Kenny, on the other hand, is investigating this case entirely for himself. He used to be a famous journalist but lost it all and is now disgraced among the public. He wants to use this case as a way to claw back his fame and reputation. Although he has some pretty silly ideas about how all this will play out, he’s actually a likeable character, which is surprising considering the way he is. I loved how brazen he is; he’s persistent and not afraid to force his way into situations. I liked how well he worked with Andie and the banter they shared.
Another character that caught my eye is Ramon Mercado, who wanted Andie to join the FBI and work with him in the first place. I liked how much potential he saw in Andie when they first met and how he still sees that potential in her now all these years later. While her husband is cruel and dismissive, Ramon backs Andie and listens to everything she says. Ramon and Andie make a great team and I loved seeing them working together to solve the case.
Nicieza does a fantastic job of blending humour with social issues to create a compelling murder mystery. I was completely engrossed in the story and sickened by the dark turn it took. I appreciated how Nicieza didn’t shy away from having the centre of the mystery revolve around institutional racism and I liked how he peppered some entertaining moments throughout as Andie tries to keep track of four children at once, while heavily pregnant with her fifth.
I really hope there’s a sequel as I’ve become really attached to Andie and Kenny. I’d highly recommend this if you’re looking for a deeply layered mystery that tackles very prominent issues in society.