cover image The Do-Right

The Do-Right

Lisa Sandlin. Cinco Puntos (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-1-941026-19-9

In 1973, Delpha Wade, the heroine of Sandlin’s impressive debut, is released from Texas’s Gatesville Women’s Prison (aka the Do-Right) after serving 14 years for killing a man who was raping her. Needing a job pronto, Delpha becomes secretary to fledgling private eye Tom Phelan, a former oil rigger and Vietnam vet who has just opened a detective agency in Beaumont, Tex. Phelan Investigations attracts a motley lot of cases, including one boasting a scenario worthy of the Coen brothers: a man retains Phelan because his prosthetic leg is being held hostage by his brother and sister. The romance, both torrid and touching, between Delpha and a 20-year-old college kid named Isaac adds emotional depth. Sandlin’s clipped prose style is pleasingly eccentric, and can become downright Chandleresque (“The nose had a curve a school bus’d run off of”). And while the narrative veers over the yellow lines several times, the novel wraps up with an exciting sequence that neatly knits together multiple story lines. (Oct.)