Sunshine Vicram is one of those characters who is destined to win a cult following. Irreverent, intrepid and harboring secrets of her own, she won’t disappoint fans of Darynda Jones’ previous heroine, Charley Davidson. Jones shifts away from the paranormal in A Bad Day for Sunshine, which begins a new series—but her signature humor and suspense remain.
The town of Del Sol, New Mexico, is an idiosyncratic blend of quirky, lovable characters and well-kept secrets. Sunshine returns to her hometown after being elected sheriff, only to have a teenage girl vanish on her very first day. Eerily, Sybil St. Aubin had premonitions of her own kidnapping and mailed Sunshine a letter detailing her abduction prior to her disappearance. But that’s not the only twist: Sunshine herself was kidnapped as a teenager, a secret she and her family have been keeping to this day.
As the search for Sybil brings Sunshine’s repressed memories to the surface, it also introduces the reader to the diverse cast of characters populating Del Sol—from rooster thieves to former Dixie Mafia members to a mayor who wants Sunshine gone. We also meet Sunshine’s teenage daughter, Auri, who is an aspiring detective herself. As Sunshine investigates the disappearance, Auri canvasses her high school for information on the missing girl, giving us two detectives instead of just one.
Jones has a real talent for balancing suspense with laugh-out-loud humor, never losing the tension from either. Sunshine’s past is grim, as is the truth about Auri’s father, yet the book never feels bleak. The humor, sometimes absurd (like a basket of cursed muffins), never detracts from the gravity of the case Sunshine is investigating. It’s a delicate balancing act, and it’s pulled off with aplomb.
Jones opens the door for future romantic subplots as well, from Sunshine’s former crush turned distillery owner, to a U.S. Marshal on a manhunt of his own, to an FBI Agent assigned to assist in the case. With its wit and suspense, A Bad Day for Sunshine is a one-night read that left me craving the next installment in the series, especially after its truly surprising final reveal.