Sandlin, Lisa. 2015. The Do-Right. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press.
$16.95 USD. USBN 978-1941026199
Lisa Sandlin has hit a home run with her assured debut, The Do-Right, a full-length novel based on her short-story, “Phelan’s First Case.” Tom Phelan is a brand new PI working in a Texas port city during the Watergate era of the 1970’s who hires a recently released female parolee named Delpha Wade to work as his assistant. Tom is a Vietnam veteran who a hangs out his shingle as a private detective after losing a finger in an oil rig accident, and does a favor for a probation officer friend by hiring Delpha, recently released from a women’s correctional facility after serving fourteen years for killing one of the two men who raped her. Both Tom and Delpha are narrators of this tale in which a variety of unusual cases (and characters) cross their doorstep, including a betrayed wife (or is she?), a missing prosthetic leg, an inheritance mystery, and an ultimately satisfying resolution to the violent assault suffered by the teen-aged Delpha. Sandlin adeptly weaves the history of her protagonists’ lives throughout the story and shows how those histories affect their cases. The author, a Beaumont, Texas native, has an ear for southern dialogue, especially in the uneducated Delpha; but Delpha’s lack of education is not indicative of her intelligence or her street smarts, the latter honed by her years in prison. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of Tom, Delpha and new cases for Phelan Investigations! (Warning: some fairly graphic intimacy is described in parts of the novel).