Cozy mysteries aren’t just fluffy whodunits anymore. There’s a noticeable trend emerging in those written by women for women. They’re no longer shying away from the ugliness of everyday life in order to provide an escape from reality. There may be feel good tidbits thrown in like a fashion conscious wardrobe or a simmering romance, but now they’re also venturing into new territory, using what’s in the news and transferring it to the page.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the current headlines concerning race and law enforcement. People of color being subjected to police brutality—as well as receiving a substandard means of protection for their families and their property—is an hot button issue that author Lesley A. Diehl explores in A SPORTING MURDER. Sure, her heroine is known as “the fashionista of the Florida swamps” who readily admits that all she seems to think about is sexy men, but Eve Appel is a sleuth out to right as many injustices as she can, especially when the longstanding prejudice and ignorance in rural Florida threatens to harm her Native American friends in the Miccosukee Indian tribe.
When a college student’s car turns up on the side of the road with traces of blood inside, the cops basically do nothing about it since it turns out they’re not all that interested in looking for an Indian boy. They’re already aware that a great number of Guatemalan farm workers have gone missing over the last few months, and they automatically lump him in the same category as those unsolvable missing person cases. As one tribesman so tellingly reveals, “If he were white, they’d be all over the place. Get real. Anglos can’t tell an illegal alien from a Mexican farm worker from a Miccosukee college kid.”
But the case takes an interesting twist when the prime suspect turns out to be a blue-eyed, blonde-haired man with freckles. His innocent-looking appearance gives him “the perfect cover for a psychopath,” a guy with a long history of getting into bar fights with his favorite target being the resident Indian population. On the job, he’s known as El Diablo, the devil, for how he treats his workers like slaves. His prior stint in the military is no better since he was found “equally irresponsible in dealing with the Afghanis.”
And the authorities get it dead wrong when the missing college student winds up meeting a terrible end, one that could’ve been prevented if they had acted sooner. The anger in the native community quickly bubbles over when another one of their own is later abducted. No one in charge is willing to connect the dots except for Eve and her private investigating team. Based on the amount of anger over the police department’s ineptitude, Eve ponders the long history of mistrust between the two groups, “The Florida tribes have never signed a peace treaty and [they] looked as if they [were] about to take up the battle once more.”
When Eve uncovers that one of the higher ups in the police department is involved in the kidnappings, she doesn’t know where to turn for help. So she takes it upon herself to make things right, only to end up in the very same predicament—hunted down and taken against her will. By the end of the book, she’s left fighting for her life against an enemy who places no value on a human life whatsoever whether it’s “a blonde b*tch” like her or “just some brown Indians,” “no smarta**” is going to outwit him.
But he never anticipated coming across someone like Eve Appel.
Because in the face of all his threats, she has one thing to say.
“I’m a diversity magnet.”
And proud of it.