S.W. Hubbard has produced another winner in This Bitter Treasure, a book that deals with the theme of drug usage, in particular the abuse of prescription drugs that can then lead to further addictions. The book opens as Audrey goes to the restroom at a coffee place to find a young woman lying on the floor in a stall dead of a heroin overdose. Soon she learns that the 24-year-old was her former assistant Jill’s childhood best friend, and the friend’s mother blames Jill for Amber’s drug addiction, which began with injuries from a car accident. Eventually Amber was filling medicine scripts, selling the pills, and spending the money on heroin.
As the owner of Another Man’s Treasure, an estate sale business, Audrey gets hired to start the inventory of a house, to learn that the older woman who owns the house is still alive and dying in the house. She feels creeped out by the family, who are anxious to get their hands on all the money they can get out of this house, and some items seem to have gone missing too. The dying woman talks sometimes with Audrey, showing real fear of someone, but assured by Darlene, the home health aid, that dying people often express fear and see those who have already passed, Audrey drops the issue for now. Then one day, Sean, Audrey’s fiance, takes Audrey out for lunch, and when they return, the pair find the find woman dead, with her head bashed in. Given the fact that she had two weeks left to live at most, the murder seems strange and evidently a result of rage. The cops seem to suspect Darlene despite Audrey’s reservations, and when she goes in to the police station, it doesn’t take long for her to take a plea agreement, despite Audrey’s certainty that Darlene is innocent and probably covering for her eldest son, who seems to be involved in the drug scene.
One of Hubbard’s greatest strengths is the way she takes many strands of seemingly disparate plot and weaves them together into a creative whole.
Another of Hubbard’s strong points is the detail used in her characters, who come to life and grow throughout the series, which is great in having a strong female lead. I appreciate the way Audrey and Sean deal with their impending marriage and the repercussions of his coming from a very large, boisterous family while Audrey grew up an only child without a mother and barely a father. Trying to reconcile their views of family proves to be a big challenge, especially in light of the question of whether they have children and how they will make things work out should they have any.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the growth of Ty over the course of the series. He begins in Another Man’s Treasure as a belligerent young man always on the defensive after having recently gotten out of prison. But now in The Bitter Treasure Ty has becoming a responsible man who is taking classes part-time at the community college while serving as Audrey’s right-hand man. Further, he learns that his sister had a baby three months earlier and is determined to make sure this little boy grows up properly and with the proper male role model that Ty intends to be for him.
Janelle Tedesco gives the narration of the audio version of this book. I really enjoy her performance, with each character having his or her own distinct voice and accent. I also appreciate the way the individuals have not only unique voices, but particular characteristics of each individual come through in the narration.
This Bitter Treasure has some really amazing techniques in the story’s being fit together effectively. There are some dark elements found in the book, mostly surrounding the highly disfunctional family who own the house. I usually strongly dislike dark books and focus on cozy mysteries, but this book has so many creative, fascinating elements that mix together in a unique way that it deeply impresses me. It is hard to write a good description of the book because of the many details that it includes. I highly recommend this book and give it five stars!
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