Officer Sam McClellan and his partner, Lee, have stopped at a convenience store, and Sam has gone inside to buy a bag of Fritos. Meanwhile, a drive-by shooter kills Lee in Sam’s car. But what first appears to be a random act of crime soon reveals itself to be a huge cover-up of dirty secrets, drugs, prostitution, and backstabbing friends in award-winning author Laura Wharton’s new novel, Deceived.
Questions about Lee’s death continue to surface when, immediately following the murder, Sam goes to visit Lee’s wife, Jen, at their beach cottage. Jen is too distraught to notice, but when Sam arrives, he realizes someone has been searching the den in her home. Then Sam returns to his boat, where he lives, to find someone has tossed it while again searching for something — what exactly, Sam has no idea.
At Lee’s funeral, Sam’s suspicions that Lee was intentionally murdered are confirmed when a mysterious stranger asks to meet him on a ferry so she can tell him about the investigations Lee was secretly pursuing and which resulted in his murder. This encounter is followed by someone trying to run Sam off the road, and from there, a chain of events unfolds that leaves Sam questioning almost every relationship he has.
Along the way, Sam meets Molly Monroe, who just happens to show up after he is run off the road—and while Sam appears to be unconscious in his damaged car, she decides to dig in his pocket to steal his wallet. Fortunately, Sam wakes in time to stop her, but she has definitely made him suspicious. Is she the driver who tried to kill him? But when Molly tells him about how her own brother was killed by drug smugglers who appear to be linked to Lee’s investigation, Sam begrudgingly decides to trust her and enlist her help. And he can’t help laughing at the colorful way she puts curses on her enemies. Plus, he comes to admire her boating skills. But can Molly and Sam solve the crime and catch the killers before they strike again?
Deceived is the first novel in a new series featuring Sam McClellan. Besides its plot’s many twists and turns, the novel is filled with a mix of humorous and devious characters, a touch of romance, and a pleasantly descriptive local setting along the coast of North Carolina with its many beach communities. Laura Wharton, who has also written the coastal North Carolina novels The Pirate’s Bastard and Leaving Lukens, is obviously a fan of sailing because she deftly weaves her boating passion and marine knowledge into this complex tale of intrigue, betrayal, and high stakes adventure on the open water. Nor is Wharton new to the mystery genre. She is the coauthor, along with her son Will Wharton, of the young adult Mystery at the Lake House series. Now she has turned her hand to adult mysteries, and in doing so, she provides enough drama and action to keep her readers riveted to their seats, both fearing for the main characters and cheering them on, while also trying to guess who is a criminal and who a friend. And if all that isn’t enough for any mystery lover, the second book in the series, Stung!, is in the works.
For more information about Deceived and Laura Wharton, visit the author’s website.