Review by: Linda Workman-Crider
What do you do if you’re tired of living the life that was entirely planned by your parents? You just smile and walk away.
What do you do if you’re a new detective assigned to a missing person’s case? You search, even when you know you shouldn’t.
Tired of hiding her secret and wishing to make her own way in the world, Velma Bloom blows her entire trust fund on the car of her dreams instead of attending graduate school. Much to her parents’ chagrin, she drives off to start a new life in Yonkers, New York. She quickly settles into a comforting routine working at Lonnie’s Pub as a waitress and spending time with her cat, Carrot, and her not-boyfriend, Brett. She is happy in her new life with no plans to upgrade her future. A single phone call forces Velma into action, trying to discover her father’s past and to come to terms with parts of herself that she has had to keep hidden all these years. Her sudden disappearance effects everyone and, with a possible link to a double homicide, is a case that Detective Jackson Duran is quickly consumed with solving.
We enter the story on April 23, 2008, the day Velma goes missing, and then almost immediately flash back to June 2, 2005, the day Velma returns home from college. From there, we follow Velma’s life in one time-line and Detective Duran, trying to find her, in another time-line. This chronological mix works perfectly in moving our knowledge of side-characters, events, and the circumstances happening in both time-lines, and finally to an understanding of the prologue where we meet an Agent Majors undergoing intensive psychological testing. If you are a plot driven reader, I can tell you that the storyline has a solid plot with a few sub-plots. It is good. I am reluctant to give any of the unique details because I fear it would be misleading regarding an expectation toward a faster pace.
Velma Bloom is a red-head with the attitude to match. Her confidence is backed by being raised in a well-off family, having a college education, and an ample bosom perched upon an attractive slender body. She is not a fan of wine, but enjoys her booze and lots of it. She is the type of person to call her parents by their first names, a person who seems to care, and yet remains emotionally aloof; she can afford to because she is emotionally strong and determined to take care of herself. Her one major weakness is also her superpower.
While likeable, Velma’s character is difficult to feel truly close to because she never needs us or anyone else. By the time we start thinking she might really be in trouble, she has already solved the situation. In real life, she would be the type of person you would admire from afar, but that you couldn’t get close to without fear of assuming the role being of the needy one. In the book, Brett, the not-boyfriend, clings to the hope that at some point Velma will allow their relationship to deepen. I was left feeling the same way as Brett. I really do like her character, otherwise the distance would never have been noticed.
Jackson Duran is a newly made detective with a personal code of ethics: no bribes, only booze; no broads, just books; and his own interpretation of the law. He worked seven years as a beat cop to finally get his dream promotion. He’ll do just about anything to crack the case and find the missing Velma.
We meet Duran in Chapter two with no actual physical description, a fact that is easily overlooked. Riedel delivers Duran’s background and then smoothly glides through the scenes that sink us further into the storyline. I didn’t notice the absence until I began writing this review that my original mental image of Durham was built from my own concept of what his personality traits and unique quirks would look like bundled up in a single character.
Danielle Riedel is, to me, a master of the descriptive sentence and giving key details to visualize every scene. She uses setting, body language, dialogue, and the timing of information, mentioned above, to the greatest overall effect of building a believable world in which she has granted every character their own unique feature. Where a character speaks in Spanish, we get the dialogue in Spanish (with the inclusion of smoothly worked in translation, thankfully).
Danielle Riedel spent time as a bartender and as a police cadet in real life, so she was able to pull from her real-world knowledge when writing this novel. And, since I have already dropped the pacing bomb, I might as well give away that she builds a very believable world of espionage filled with intrigue and the paranoia of discovery. Maybe she picked up this skill while she was studying psychology.
Overall, Smile and Walk Away by Danielle Riedel is a recommended read. While I was initially a bit disappointed with the slow pace, I had simply began reading this book while in the mood for something a bit more fast-paced. I was still caught up in the unique storyline and the interesting characters. There are even plenty of action scenes, just none ranging over several pages. This ties into my only other complaint that Velma solves her dilemma’s a bit too quickly for closeness to be developed by the reader, only admiration. Neither of these is enough of an issue to overshadow the amount of talent that Riedel displays in this novel or the amount of enjoyment I gained while reading it. This is a book to be read on a quiet rainy day when feeling a bit too lazy for anything containing extensive adrenaline, or for those times when you want to read but can’t allow yourself to get too caught up. There is a need for a book like this in everyone’s life and Danielle Riedel has written it.