It’s hot, hot, hot in Dallas, Texas, where a drug bust gone bad welcomes readers to police detective Betty Rhyzyk’s world of undercover narcotics, and into Kathleen Kent’s new crime novel, The Dime.
Kent, a writer of historical fiction, explodes onto the crime genre with a detective who has all the qualities that’ll make her stand out from the crowd. No shrinking violet, Betty is a very tall, redheaded lesbian, as well as a kick-butt detective, transplanted from Brooklyn to good ol’ boy Dallas, where lewd comments and not-so-subtle discrimination are the least of what she’s facing.
In her latest case, Betty confronts a slew of murder victims, but realizes that the gruesome deaths don’t have the marks of Mexico’s drug cartel. Betty and her team follow disparate clues to determine just who may be challenging the cartel—and who is responsible for the growing list of victims, including one of the detective team’s own.
Kent rises above the obligatory badass conventions that can sometimes derail brutal “cops and robbers” tales like these, with their complicated, often-violent protagonists. She excels in other ways, by creating an engrossing story of the sometimes-strained but always-changing relationships between this unusual detective and her more mainstream hetero colleagues, and puts into perspective a somewhat over-the-top torture-filled scene that threatens to unbalance the rest of the plot. Kent’s brilliant, sometimes-gentle and humorous observations humanize and set this book apart.
The Dime showcases the author’s strengths with multifaceted descriptions of Betty and her sturdy friendship with her police partner, Seth; the many characters on the police force; and her unfortunate run-ins with the disagreeable family of her lover/partner, Jackie. A religion-crazed cult leader who surfaces later in the book is a chilling, stay-in-your head character who may possibly figure in future books. Kent tops off her narrative with a couple of one-of-a-kind characters whose small heroisms figure very large: the marvelously rendered Civil War re-enactor who stands his ground; and James Earle Walden, Jackie’s alcoholic, Vietnam vet great-uncle.
Best of all, the voice of Betty’s deceased Uncle Benny, the man who inspired her life, threads through the book with an ongoing patter of whimsical advice, sometimes funny, sometimes dead serious, but always on the money.