Blood Ties – Lori Armstrong

Back Cover:
BLOOD TIES…What do they mean?
How far would someone go to serve…or protect them?

Julie Collins is stuck in a dead-end secretarial job with the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s office, and still grieving over the unsolved murder of her Lakota half-brother. Lack of public interest in finding his murderer or the killer of several other transient Native American men, has left Julie with a bone-deep cynicism she counters with tequila, cigarettes, and dangerous men. The one bright spot in her mundane life is the time she spends working part-time as a PI with her childhood friend, Kevin Wells.

When the body of a sixteen-year old white girl is discovered in nearby Rapid Creek, Julie believes this victim will receive the attention others were denied. Then she learns Kevin has been hired, mysteriously, to find out where the murdered girl spent her last few days. Julie finds herself drawn into the case against her better judgment, and discovers not only the ugly reality of the young girl’s tragic life and brutal death, but ties to her and Kevin’s past that she is increasingly reluctant to revisit.

On the surface the situation is eerily familiar. But the parallels end when Julie realizes some family secrets are best kept buried deep. Especially those serious enough to kill for.

Julie Collins moved back from Minneapolis to Bear Butte, South Dakota, when her half-brother was found murdered. She wanted to find out who killed him and why, so she took a secretarial job at the sheriff’s office to get better access to the information she needed. But now, after three years, she’s still stuck were she began. Julie is also a part-time PI, working for her childhood friend Kevin Wells, and when he wants her help on a case very similar to her brother’s she grabs the chance to finally get a step closer to finding out what happened. But instead of answers, the investigation brings up stuff from Julie’s past, stuff that she had locked far away in her memory and by putting herself in the middle of the investigation she also attracts the attention of the killer.

Wow! Just the first page of the prologue set the tone for this gritty, dark mystery in every sense. The way it described Julie’s past with a dead mother, abusive father and murdered half-brother, I knew I was in for something else. My love for Julie’s character had to grow but I liked her voice from the start. She’s snappy and tough as nails with her sarcastic wit and in-your-face-personality. I know gritty mysteries aren’t suppose to be funny but this one plastered a smile on my face regularly, due to Julie’s dark sense of humor and spot-on remarks, both aloud and in her thoughts, on the people in her life.

Julie is a beer drinking, chain-smoking, woman who is anything but sweet and loveable. Julie has her moments where she made me smile with her sharp, sarcastic remarks but I can’t say I found her to be a sympathetic character in the beginning, as I said: she had to grow on me because at first I felt more sorry for her than that I felt a connection. Later this changed, mainly because she is a woman of contradiction: the badass, mad-at-the-whole-world woman has another side too. Despite her harshness and attitude, deep down she has a sensitive and caring heart. Injustice and innocent people suffering are things that gnaw at her and get to her and that showed me she is not that cold, cynic, insensitive woman she seemed to be in the beginning.

This book is written mostly in 1st person narrative, Julie’s POV but I very much liked the few short chapters that were written from the killer’s POV and that were in 3rd person narrative. BLOOD TIES is gritty, violent and not for the faint of heart. It was also very slow-paced and took me a while to get into, so much that in the beginning I was not very compelled to pick it up to read once I put it down for a moment. But after the slow start there was a point where it all turned around and I started to really like the story. I think it was the point where I started to like Julie as a character. From that point on despite the slow-pace and the 1st person narrative, which isn’t my favorite to read, I started to love this book. Mysteries have always intrigued me: Who did it? Why? How? And BLOOD TIES gives the answers to these questions in a believable and realistic way. Slowly and gradually the clues and facts are revealed, leading Julie, Kevin and the reader to the answers and the killer.

The way Lori Armstrong describes the scenery you feel like you’re right there in South Dakota and you know the places she’s talking about. She has a vivid imagery to her writing, which I love to read and which for me is a sign of a talented writer. BLOOD TIES was never boring or too descriptive despite the slow pace. It’s weird and hard to describe but even with the slow pace there was a lot of exciting action, which didn’t interfere with the pace but still made it action-packed. Once you’re near the end it’s not hard to guess who the killer is but still it was suspenseful till the very end as motive is explained and the question is whether rescue will arrive in time for Julie. And that ending was very surprising.

With BLOOD TIES I have tasted a bit of Lori’s Armstrong’s work and as with the work of her alter ego Lorelei James, she has once again ensnared with brilliant writing skills and a story that, once I got into it, kept hold of my attention right to the very last page. I am definitely ready for the next Julie Collins mystery.

“Knock it off, Julie. Sheriff hears you moaning like that, he’ll think we’re doing it on your desk.”
“Al,” I said lazily. “If I thought you could find my G-spot as quickly as you zeroed in on that knotted muscle, we would be doing it on my desk.”

“Kevin Wells,” he answered with that knock ’em dead smile that made women seriously consider disrobing.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

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