Hansen-stalkRhea Jensen isn’t your typical twenty-something Mormon young woman.  She’s into skydiving, racecar driving, and mountain climbing.  She’s also a private investigator with a shed full of investigative tools, not all of which are quite legal.  Her methods skirt pretty close to the line as well and raise a few questions of conscience in this recent convert’s mind.   Stalk Lake City is the second volume in the Rhea Jensen Series by Sheralyn Pratt.

Rhea, pronounced Ray, joined the Church at the end of volume one, without a lot of knowledge about the Church, but a conviction that what the missionaries taught her is true.  Besides she made a bargain with God when her life was on the line that if she got out of that mess alive she’d be baptized and Rhea always keeps her word.  Feeling certain her lifestyle and her job aren’t compatible with her new religion and to be closer to a certain young man, she moves to Utah.  But when an intriguing case falls in her lap with a little help from her best friend in L.A. she can’t resist the challenge.

Someone is stalking the pretty red-haired news anchor at a local television station.  There are plenty of suspects, including a motorcycle riding boxer the woman has been dating, the station manager, and a odd assortment of co-workers, and Rhea chases down their secrets one by one.

Rhea is quite sure she’s in love with the young man who first introduced her to Salt Lake, but there’s a neighbor who shares her love for living dangerously and she can’t stop thinking about him or turning to him when her workaholic boyfriend isn’t available.
The action is fast and dangerous, the language gritty, and though Rhea is firmly committed to the gospel, she’s not sure she’ll ever fit in or get the answers she seeks concerning the strange new culture she finds herself in.

This series is fun and more like a hard-boiled detective genre than is usually found in LDS mystery/suspense novels.  Though there’s a touch of romance in the novel, it’s not the main story, and it’s quite clear Rhea isn’t really looking for “happily ever after” just yet.  There are references to the Church and even one very nice answer to a question that bothers some converts, especially women, but the book is far from preachy and decidedly irreverent in places.  Pratt’s characters never actually curse and they don’t use phony euphemisms either, yet there’s a grittiness that may bother some readers.  Rhea is a well-developed character and she does grow in self-awareness throughout the book, but other characters are only developed as far as necessary for their role in the story.  That’s alright because the hard-boiled detective novel is always long on action and mystery with the plot being more important than secondary characters.   This plot is satisfyingly complex and it was fun to follow the twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion.
Sheralyn Pratt lives in Salt Lake City and has tried her hand at a number of things.  She has been a karate instructor and a private investigator.  She’s also heavily involved in the publishing industry.

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STALK LAKE CITY by Sheralyn Pratt, published by Bonneville Books, paperback, 214 pages, $14.99