Review: Jex Malone by C.L. Gaber & V.C. Stanley

Jex Malone by CL Gaber & VC Stanley

A famous case. A missing girl. If they find her, will they be heroes? Or dead?

Bored out of her mind during a summer with her police detective father in Las Vegas, Jessica (aka “Jex”) Malone starts doing what she does best–snooping. When she meets three new friends who share her passion for crime, from the geek to the fashionista, suddenly, the stifling desert days don’t seem so long.

Her dad is never around, just like when her parents were married. But Jex’s crew, the Drew-Ids, take the pledge of eternal secrecy and then get down to the good stuff–digging through the cold-case files in Dad’s home office.

One of them, the thirteen-year-old case of Patty Matthews, is still a mystery. Finding Patty, who vanished into thin air, became such an obsession for Jex’s father that it destroyed the Malones’ marriage. So not only is this a big deal, it’s personal.

Jex is determined to find out what really happened, and her excitement is contagious. Soon her friends are all on board and so is the missing girl’s brother, the hunky Cooper Matthews.

But as they dig up more and more troubling information–more than the cops ever did–they also get the clear message that someone out there wants to prevent the truth from coming out. That somebody is also prepared to do anything, absolutely anything, to prevent it.

Jex isn’t afraid; after all, she’s a cop’s daughter. But maybe she should be.

I received Jex Malone from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested Jex Malone because the description (which I had to cut for length above) says that Jex “could be the Nancy Drew for a new generation.” I love Nancy Drew, so I was all over this book.

Jex, however, is the poor man’s Nancy Drew. Jex’s real name is Jessica but I guess Jessica Malone isn’t a catchy title. The above description is a lot more exciting than the book. Nancy would have been appalled at Jex and her friends’ tactics, from breaking into someone’s home (!) to jumping to conclusions and taking matters into their own hands. Okay, maybe not — Nancy wasn’t above a little trespassing herself — but she would have at least feigned being appalled.

Another reason for requesting Jex Malone was my interest in mission persons cases. I even lurk on a message board where people “sleuth” these types of cases. I mostly roll my eyes at their attempts to solve the cases and at their finger-pointing, but I find the threads and the discussions interesting, at least until they get repetitive as new posters show up and ask the same questions that have been answered twice three pages earlier.

It’s so sad how many people go missing. Most of them are found pretty quickly: teenage runaways, adults who want some space, people who just aren’t where they said they would be but return home on their own — and those who are not found alive. The ones that haunt you are the ones who are missing for some time before they’re found, and the ones who are never found. One of the cold cases that I most want solved is that of Amy Billing, a teenager from Florida who disappeared in 1974. Forty years. Her parents have grown old and died, not ever knowing for sure what happened to their daughter.

So I understand the curiosity that led Jex and her friends to decide to look into the disappearance for Patty Matthews. Patty was a local girl, having lived in — and disappeared from — their very neighborhood. She disappeared when they were about four, and Jex’s father’s obsession with the case led to his divorce from Jex’s mom. It’s natural that Jex would be interested for that reason. I’m just not sure how, even after I’ve read the book, they managed to get from the starting point to solving the case. Most of their sleuthing seemed to be a lot of floundering around, and walking right into clues. I do give Jex credit for finding a huge clue: Patty’s diary. The diary entries are the best part of the book, as Patty is infinitely more interesting than Jex or any of her friends. I really did want to find out what happened to her.

The book isn’t very well-written, which surprised me given that the authors are both long-time journalists. There’s a little too much going on: the investigation, Jex and her father trying to get to know each other after ten years apart, the pushy reporter with an agenda who follows Jex around, Jex dealing with her father’s new girlfriend who just so happens to be Patty’s former teacher, Jex meeting her new friends, and Jex’s possible first boyfriend. It’s a little overwhelming and so many storylines and angles leave the book feeling disjointed. The reporter and Jex’s father’s girlfriend could have been left out without much change to the story, and it would have left more time to devote to the relationship between Jex and her dad. It’s a big deal that she’s spending the summer with him, but in the end, the storyline doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Jex’s friends — Deva, Nat, and Cissy — aren’t well-developed at all. The only thing I can tell you about them is that Nat wears a sweatshirt/hoodie in the Las Vegas heat, Deva has an American Express Black card and Cissy lives next door to Jex’s father. The three of them were friends pre-Jex, but I didn’t get the feeling that they really liked each other. They just seemed to be three girls of a similar age who hung out. Better character development in the first place probably would help with this.

The book isn’t bad. Like I said, the mystery interested me a lot. The book just doesn’t seem finished, but it’s possible that the problems I had with it have been worked out for the final, published version. There’s nothing special or unique about Jex as a character. She and her friends call their detective group the Drew-Ids after Nancy (and pronounced like druids), but Jex won’t truly rise to Nancy Drew’s level until she gets chloroformed a time or two. And probably not even then.

2 1/2 stars