Serenity by Craig A. Hart is about what Shelby Alexander wants in his life. Serenity, Michigan is where Shelby went to find it. A formerly successful boxer who made a gigantic mistake in the past that led to his fall from grace in the boxing world, Shelby has cultivated a reputation as a “fixer.” It is not that he intentionally works outside the law but he has occasionally crossed borders a more ethical person would not cross. In the first chapter, we meet a Shelby who is aware of his advancing age and degradation of physical abilities even though he is a young sixty-year-old with a thirty-year-old girlfriend. Shelby is content with his place in life and wishes daughter Leslie would stop calling him to get him to reconcile with his ex-wife. He will not criticize Leslie because he wants to continue a relationship with his daughter which has only recently unfrozen. Then Jenny died.
Shelby and Jenny had no relationship. Jenny had no relationship with anybody. She had a problem with mental health issues but was tolerated by all citizens of Serenity because she had a smile for all and always had something nice to say to everyone she met. When she showed up near Shelby’s barn on a cold winter night, she was not quite dead. By the time the medics responded to Shelby’s cabin, Jenny had died. Medics and police ruled it an accident. Perhaps Jenny had gotten lost in the woods and froze to death. Jenny’s brother, Harper Ellis, told Shelby that Jenny could not possibly have gotten lost. The Ellis family or clan had lived on the land for generations. All their family were as familiar with the woods as others were familiar with their hometowns.
Harper offered Shelby ten thousand dollars to find out what happened to Jenny. Harper was sure there was more to the story than Jenny wandering around lost. Harper could not go to the police as he was one of the principals of the Ellis clan, a group responsible for most of the dope distribution in the county. While the police knew of it, they could not prove it but Harper felt that any prolonged contact with the police risked exposure of his family’s drug business. Shelby, desiring only to be left alone with girlfriend Carly, drink generous supplies of alcohol daily, and go on occasional fishing trips, did not want to accept the mission. People in the county with the family name Ellis did not make requests; they made demands. Also, Shelby could use the money.
Shelby figured out early in his investigation that someone had hit Jenny in the head and raped her prior to her death. From here, the story develops several investigative strands. If the Ellis family was so powerful in the county, who would dare to kill Jenny? Why would anyone want to kill the town crazy, one so amiable that everyone liked her? And why are so many people trying to kill Shelby and anyone around him? The last question is easy to answer. Many people are worried that Jenny said something to Shelby before she died. There are competing drug gangs, competition in the Ellis drug clan, a fractured police department which might be complicit in the drug trade, and several psycho killers that liked their trade too much.
This is a comfort read for fans who like mystery thrillers. I found the character of Shelby to be the most interesting element of the novel. This is good because this novel is subtitled as “A Shelby Alexander Thriller,” indicating that this interesting character will appear in future novels. An Amazon page shows five novels in the series to date. I bought this novel for USD 0.00, my favorite price anytime. I was offered the audio companion for USD 1.99. If I knew the book was as good as it turned out, I would have bought the audible narration. Books 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the series are available on Kindle Unlimited. Many times, the KU subscription includes the companion audible book for free or at a low price. After reading this novel, I think it will be more enjoyable in the audible edition than the Mobi (Kindle) edition. I will read and review another Craig Hart novel soon.