Danny Cleary is a complete and absolute mess. After a painful divorce, she found herself skipping through the land of alcoholism and directly into the arms of crack cocaine. Content to max out her credit cards and get high with her best friend Gene in her Toronto apartment, Danny’s world begins to fall apart when she receives a phone call that her twin sister, Ginger, has been murdered. What’s worse, Ginger has been murdered in a shady hotel in Orange County, California and made to look like she committed suicide. Danny springs into action and travels to the West Coast, complete with drugs smuggled into a particularly uncomfortable body cavity, and comes face to face with the expensive ritzy life her sister found her way into. Ginger’s husband, Fred, is in jail under suspicion for what the police now suspect was a murder. While Danny and her other siblings begin to look for answers, Ginger’s children are taken from protective custody by someone who looks just like Danny. Panicked, Danny begins an investigation of her own into police corruption, Ginger’s death and what has happened to her nephews. The trail will take her all over the country and reunite her with a past she thought was far behind her and she swears that she will take out everyone that lead to her sister’s death.
Barbara Leslie does her very best to make Danny Cleary a sympathetic narrator. Leslie doesn’t shy from her main character’s drug addiction, smuggling techniques, or what she’ll do when desperate enough for a fix. The book is crazy violent, filled with abuse, and doesn’t shy away from detailed descriptions of broken bones and serious wounds. As much as the reader may find themselves wanting to be irritated by Danny, other characters in the book make her adventure somewhat believable, no matter how batty the situations she finds herself in are. As a warning, those who have suffered sexual abuse will likely want to shy away from this book. In one particular passage relating to foster care, I found myself desperately wanting to rescue every child involved, even though the characters are fictional. Danny deeply loves her sister, and even as she discovers the mystery behind her sister’s death, Danny never once stops blaming herself for Ginger’s demise.
Cracked: A Danny Cleary novelhas a believable setting in Orange County, California. As someone who grew up in the area she described, her descriptions of Newport Beach vs. Santa Ana are pretty close. While not every hotel is ladened with junkies and not every bar has a drug dealer, there are certain areas where this is something that can and does happen. I have my sneaking suspicions of which locations Barbara Leslie may have based her shadier locations on. It definitely gave me chills and a weird sense of deja vu.
Cracked: A Danny Cleary novelis the first novel in the Danny Cleary series. I cannot wait to read the next.
Cracked: A Danny Cleary novel is now available from Titan Books.