Murder amongst friends plot of ‘A Penny for Her Heart’

This week, I picked up “A Penny for Her Heart” by Alretha Thomas. I really liked it. It is listed as one of her Detective Rachel Storme novels, so I know there are more like it out there.

Vanessa Johnson Rossi has always dreamed big. Long ago, she and her best friend in college, Penny Newhouse, both vowed to become the chief of staff for the president of the United States.

Vanessa has worked in the Burderwood Hills, California, mayor’s office for six years and was in line to become the assistant to his chief of staff, Anita Grey. Three months ago, Vanessa was shocked when Mayor Birdwell chose Penny instead. Penny had only worked at city hall for three years and lacks Vanessa’s credentials, but she has an amazing body and knows how to use her looks to get what she wants.

Being passed over hurts, but Vanessa manages to handle the disappointment. With the mayoral election only a couple of months away, Vanessa often works overtime on Saturday mornings. She’s surprised to see Penny’s car in the lot.
On Friday, Penny said she was going dancing with her fiancé, Stan, after work, but when Vanessa gets to Penny’s office, she notices Penny’s dress shoes and blazer on the floor. Vanessa decides to look for her in the restroom and makes a gruesome discovery.

Hundreds of pennies are strewn across the blood-covered floor. Penny has been brutally murdered, her body posed. The two women have been close friends for 17 years. This was like losing a sister.

Detectives Herb Jones and Rachel Storme are assigned the case. They have been partners a long time and have developed a strong bond. Together, they have a high case clearance rate, so they go into this case with high hopes.
They can see that Penny has been stabbed, but shocked when the coroner tells them that she was drugged when her chest was cut open and her heart removed. This murder was personal. As their team sorts through the histories of several “persons of interest,” Herb and Rachel must also deal with life outside of the police department.

Herb’s wife, Clarice, has just been given a cancer-free diagnosis, and the family is greatly relieved. Rachel’s family isn’t running as smoothly. Her mom’s Alzheimer’s comes and goes with good and bad days. Rachel’s aunt Cassie has been clean and sober for almost a year now. Rachel trusts her enough to let her run one of her flower shops, hoping it will help her stay sober. Dreams of retirement are a few years off, but Rachel wonders what she’ll do without the challenge of crimes to solve.

The suspect list is long, ranging from other candidates in the mayoral race to scorned lovers, to other city hall employees. Everyone is shocked when an anonymous person sends the media photos of Penny in intimate poses with her boss, Anita Grey.

What was Penny doing with a woman lover when she was happily engaged to Stan? When asked about Penny, Stan explains that they broke up over three months ago, and they were never engaged. Vanessa and Rachel both know how to follow their “gut” feeling, but every time new evidence emerges, another body is found. Maybe it is time to think outside the box and shift that suspect list around.

I would love to tell you how it ends, but I think you should read this one yourself and see if you guessed right.

“A Penny for Her Heart”
AUTHOR: Alretha Thomas
PUBLISHED: July 10, 2017
PAGES: 332