Friday, July 9, 2021

Book Review: Pony Up by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun Mysteries #10)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters we know, interesting plot
Cons: Dueling plots, content of a couple of scenes
The Bottom Line:
Danger on two fronts
With characters that we love
Still, does not quite mesh

Settling into Married Life with Danger

When I saw two more books in the Valley of the Sun Mysteries late last year, I snapped them up.  I enjoyed book nine earlier this year, but Pony Up was a bit different.  I enjoyed it overall, but it had issues.

The series follows several officers in the Phoenix homicide department.  While Joe Rodriguez is the main character, we have spent time getting to know the others, and they have a strong presence once again in this book.  The original few volumes in the series were released in the 1990’s, and the author has kept that time frame.  That means that Joe has a cell phone, but it’s large, and he’s not sure how he feels about it, and computers are large and slow.  Things like that.

It is absolutely essential that you’ve read the previous book, Wild Horses, before you read this book.    Not only does this one pick up immediately after the ending of book nine, but it carries over a storyline I thought had been wrapped up.

This book opens at Joe’s wedding reception over in Ireland, but it isn’t too long before he and his young wife, Bridgid, are back in Phoenix and settling into wedded bliss.  Well, they would be if it weren’t for Charlie Stegener.  He is still trying to cause trouble for Joe in particular and the entire Phoenix police in general despite the fact that his wife has dropped out of the mayor’s race.  Meanwhile, someone has followed Joe and Bridgid back from Ireland intent on ruining their lives.  Can Joe stay one step ahead of both of these problems?

As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading the script for a modern TV show.  We’ve got the A story and the B story, one of which is new and the other is carried over from the previous book (episode).  Each are equally important to this particular book.  However, that’s not what I generally expect in books.  Yes, I expect some subplots involving the character’s lives, but not an ongoing storyline.  This is a case where TV and books usually differ.  While I like both media, I like them for different reasons and I like them being different.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story here.  I was engaged the entire time.  I love the characters, and they were strong once again, which certainly helped draw me in.  There was plenty happening to them, and it was mostly bad, so I wanted to see how they would come out on the other side.

There were a couple of scenes, however, that I could have done without due to the content.  And I have to wonder what one character ever did to the author since she once again is put through horrible stuff.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say.  The storyline here is wrapped up.  But the book’s ending felt abrupt.  I’m used to a wrap up scene in both books and TV shows, and we didn’t get that here.  But again, I did feel like we got a satisfying conclusion to the story.

I did enjoy Pony Up more than it might sound like from my review.  But then again, I already knew and loved the characters.  The flaws with the book are enough to keep me from recommending it to all but the biggest fans of the series.

Here are the rest of the Valley of the Sun Mysteries.

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