Friday Night Lights meets Mare of Easttown in this small-town mystery about an unlikely private investigator searching for a missing waitress. Pay Dirt Road is the mesmerizing debut from the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize recipient Samantha Jayne Allen.
Annie McIntyre has a love/hate relationship with Garnett, Texas.
Recently graduated from college and home waitressing, lacking not in ambition but certainly in direction, Annie is lured into the family business—a private investigation firm—by her supposed-to-be-retired grandfather, Leroy, despite the rest of the clan’s misgivings.
When a waitress at the café goes missing, Annie and Leroy begin an investigation that leads them down rural routes and haunted byways, to noxious-smelling oil fields and to the glowing neon of local honky-tonks. As Annie works to uncover the truth she finds herself identifying with the victim in increasing, unsettling ways, and realizes she must confront her own past—failed romances, a disturbing experience she’d rather forget, and the trick mirror of nostalgia itself—if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Recent college graduate Annie McIntyre, the narrator of Tony Hillerman Prize winner Allen's solid debut, has felt rudderless since moving home to Garnett, Tex., and taking a job at the local caf , so she's thrilled when her grandfather, Leroy McIntyre, and his business partner, Mary-Pat Zimmerman, offer her part-time work at their PI firm. Annie starts out doing the detectives' filing, but then fellow waitress Victoria Merritt turns up dead after attending the same drunken bonfire as Annie. Police make an arrest, but Annie has her doubts, and when the detainee's grandmother hires Leroy and Mary-Pat to clear his name, Annie insists on joining their investigation. Viable suspects abound, from Victoria's estranged husband to an oil exec intent on running a pipeline through Victoria's backyard, and Annie is determined to catch the real culprit, even if doing so means imperiling herself. The story is slow to start and much of the interpersonal conflict feels manufactured, but evocative prose and a powerful sense of place lift an otherwise run-of-the-mill mystery. Allen is a writer with promise. Agent: Sharon Pelletier, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.