Title: Notorious by Allison Brennan
Max Revere Novel (Book One)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan introduces an irrepressible heroine in her pulse-pounding new thriller Notorious, which Lisa Gardner says is, “Guaranteed to keep you up late at night.”
Maxine Revere has dedicated her life to investigating murders that the police have long since given up any hope of solving. A nationally renowned investigative reporter with her own TV show and a tough-as-nails reputation, Max tackles cold cases from across the country and every walk of life. But the one unsolved murder that still haunts her is a case from her own past.
When Max was a high school senior, one of her best friends was strangled and another, Kevin O’Neal, accused of the crime. To the disgrace of her wealthy family, Max stood by her friend, until she found out he lied about his alibi. Though his guilt was never proven, their relationship crumbled from the strain of too many secrets.
Now Max is home for Kevin’s funeral—after years of drug abuse, he committed suicide. She’s finally prepared to come to terms with the loss of his friendship, but she’s not prepared for Kevin’s sister to stubbornly insist that he didn’t kill himself. Or for an elderly couple to accost her at the airport, begging her to look into another murder at Max’s old high school. Max is more interested in the cold case at her alma mater than in digging around Kevin’s troubled life, but she agrees to do both. As Max uncovers dark secrets, she finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies that hit far too close to home. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that someone will do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.
Allison Brennan’s Notorious is a fast-paced and engrossing mystery that has a cast of characters that stands out from other novels in this genre. This first novel starring Maxine “Max” Revere, an independently wealthy investigative reporter who solves cold cases, is an intriguing mystery set in an elite and wealthy California enclave. The murders of two people from her hometown have stymied local detectives but Max quickly uncovers evidence that revives both of the investigations into the unsolved homicides.
Max returns home for the funeral of her old friend Kevin O’Neal and she is immediately caught up in two separate investigations. While trying to determine whether Kevin’s death was in fact a suicide, Max begins looking into the thirteen year old unsolved death of their mutual friend, Lindy Ames. Kevin was tried and acquitted of Lindy’s murder, and in the months leading up to his death, Kevin was trying to track down her killer. Max was always convinced of Kevin’s innocence but she could not forgive him for lying to her about his alibi the night of the murder.
The other case is that Max is looking into surrounds the death of Jason Hoffman, a young man murdered on the grounds of her old prep school. With little to go on, the investigation soon stalled out and in fact, Max discovers it has recently been relegated to the cold case file. But when a young woman Max questioned is viciously attacked, Nick Santini, the detective in charge of the case, reopens the case. Despite Nick’s warnings to the contrary, Max continues poking around in the case and the sparks are soon flying between these two strong-willed people.
Max is headstrong, tenacious and the demons from her own past drive her search for the truth. She has long been at odds with her wealthy family and she spends as little time with them as possible. She has a no nonsense attitude that can be a little off putting but it is difficult to fault her search for answers. Max is definitely a what you see is what you get kind of person but there is a hint of vulnerability that she carefully keeps hidden.
While there are a lot of supporting characters in Notorious, there are a couple that are worth mentioning. First up is Max’s assistant/bodyguard, David Kane. He is off screen for most of the story, but he is Max’s closest friend and he is her go to guy for digging up information that nobody wants found. David cares deeply for her and I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two.
Nick is equally likable and while he makes no effort to hide the antipathy he feels for Max, there is no denying the attraction between them. Very little personal information is revealed about his character until near the end of the novel and it will definitely be interesting to see how he might fit into future novels.
While there is the tiniest bit of romance to the novel, Notorious is first and foremost a mystery. Allison Brennan does an excellent job keeping the unfolding storyline unpredictable and readers will constantly second guess their theories as to the killer’s identity. Red herrings cast suspicion on numerous individuals and misdirects provide many different scenarios for the murders. Trying to guess what, if any, connection there might be between the deaths is virtually impossible. All in all, an excellent first installment in the Max Revere series that leaves fans eagerly anticipating the next release.