The Opposite of Everyone

Joshilyn Jackson. Morrow, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-210568-4

The voice is hard-boiled and the plot engrossing in Jackson's (Someone Else's Love Story) new novel, a realistic, contemporary story with a mystery driving it. In a twist, the troubled detective protagonist is no screwed-up male with substance abuse issues and an inability to commit (although there is one in the story); rather, she is hard-nosed, mixed-race, divorce lawyer Paula Vauss, nicknamed Kali (as in the fearsome Hindu goddess) by her feckless but charming mother Kai. Paula has settled near Atlanta, where she tries to push away everyone she cares about, but this becomes impossible when her past and present converge. She hasn't seen her mother Kai in years; then, the monthly check she sends to her is returned with a cryptic message, and a half-brother, Julian, whom she didn't know she had, shows up. Although Paula is rough and reckless, Jackson makes her an easy character to root for by vividly depicting her inner struggle and past. This is an excellent read with a fresh take on the detective genre. (Feb.)