The Best Defense: Randy Rawls
Opinionated, rambunctious, confident, outspoken and often quite blunt PI Beth Bowman finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation when arriving at the home of John and Sabrina Hammonds hoping to deliver the goods on the philandering husband. But, when knocking on the door and receiving no response Beth manages to find her way inside and is confronted by anything but what she expected: not one but two dead bodies. Sabrina Hammonds hired this South Florida PI to get the goods on husband John Hammond’s affair. But, instead she finds the client and her maid’s bodies. Calling the police did not help as she was immediately treated as a suspect and subjected to the same treatment of any guilty party. But, Beth’s mouth does not only get in her way, but the detectives in charge are inflamed just seeing her there and the end result requires a statement and her cooperation.
Beth is of the mindset that John murdered Sabrina in order to run away with the woman that she photographed with him and is bent on letting him know it. As the situation heats up and John Hammonds arrives home, Beth is sure that the police will arrest the husband. Blunt, angry and accusatory she winds up putting more than her foot in her mouth when she screams, shouts and points figures at John Hammonds when he returns home. As the story continues and she finally settles down, the probably that he killed his wife is nixed and the end result surprises her as John Hammonds hires to find his five year old daughter that was kidnapped. Distraught, having little or no faith in the police, refuses their guidance and no Amber Alert, Beth Bowman’s job is to find Ashley.
With her unorthodox methods, her team of homeless helpers they walk the streets, look under every rock and search for the unknown woman that took Ashley right in front of the officials in her school. With a typed letter and supposed signature of the father, no one bothered to check to see if the letter was real, if the signature was forged or even if this woman was on the parent list that most schools have with contact names for those allowed to pick up their child.
As Beth confronts John, asks questions about his wife and finds out just who the woman was that she photographed, the harsh truth comes out about her deceased client, tempers that flared subside and the quest is on to find one little five year old girl. Entering the bar of her friend Bob who called together this band of homeless helpers we learn more about each one, their relationship with Beth and why she trusts them more than the police. Within this plot we also meet her mother who adds to the humor, the hilarity and much to her chagrin invades her peace.
Getting to know Beth Bowman we learn that she is street smart, appears to be quite intelligent and follows her own rules and guidelines. A confrontation with Madeline Hammonds enlightens readers to just how she operates, why she does not get intimidated that sides are drawn, the battle lines defined and neither will give an inch. As Madeline states that her brother made a mistake enlisting just her help the kidnappers leave an email and the race is on to find Ashley. What Beth finds when she goes to the place that the kidnappers state will have a message she needs to follow, the end result is a DVD and a letter that might provide some clues.
With the help of Bob Sandiford and his homeless friends and associates extra eyes are planted on the street, the clock is ticking and Beth hopes to find Ashley before it’s too late. But, first she needs to backtrack some clues, read the letter, understand the messages being conveyed and hope that she is capable of doing what the police John feels cannot.
Within the plot there are several small subplots dealing with Dabba a homeless woman who chose to live on the streets when her own daughter was kidnapped. As author Randy Rawls relates her story to readers we learn about the kidnapping, her husband’s way of really not dealing with the situation and what lead to their breakup and her quest to find her child. When Dabba learns about Ashley she becomes so fixed on finding her she thinks they are looking for Linda. When Beth faces danger it is Dabba that comes to her rescue.
Learning more about what the kidnappers want, listening to the many homeless men and women voice their concerns, listen to their ideas and thoughts, Beth even relates one train of thought to the police. However, things do awry when Beth is sent to pick up another message and she is blindsided by the kidnappers. Wondering as many readers might if she is the right person to head this investigation even though the police are around to back her up in many ways, Beth just might be in over her head and Ashley’s fate is in her hands.
Madeline Hammonds really felt at first that Beth is really the wrong person to find her niece but something changes her perception and thoughts about her but is she right? Beth is persistent and with the help of her homeless team they formulate a plan. Four locations to place one million dollars each and the kidnappers would choose the one they wanted to lift the money from. The other three locations would be untouched and maybe John Hammonds might get back his money but they really don’t care because if anyone attempts to cross them Ashley is gone.
A defense lawyer that defends politicians, lobbyists and many other criminal types and one who just might be behind it all. One fingerprint just might solve it all. But, when Beth is alerted to the identification of just who might be behind the kidnapping what she decides to do will surprise readers. Why not enlist the help of the police? Why go with the homeless team? Just how valuable are they and what can we learn about them that might make people understand that they might be homeless and should be treated like people.
A plan that you won’t believe and an ending that will surprise you. When Beth Bowman takes a case she will do anything and everything to solve it. But, will her zany plan backfire? Who is behind the kidnapping and why? What will the final outcome be? Best Defense: John Hammonds defends them all but even his best efforts might backfire when a killer decides his best was really not up to par.
Beth is tenacious, outspoken, persistent and definitely not someone crooks want to deal with when enlisting the help of her band of homeless helpers. Dabba, Dot, Bob and the rest will surprise readers when the plan is decided, lives are in danger and the final result will surprise you.
Characters that are true to life and a PI that some might think needs to hone up on some of her skills, Best Defense is filled with humor, sarcasm, wit and characters that you will love. But, let’s not forget David, Beth’s special doctor who plays a limited role in this novel but I am sure the author has more in store for him and Beth in the future. This is a fast paced novel that will keep you reading until you find out what happens to Ashley.
This novel gets : Four stars
Fran Lewis: Reviewer