Willa Pennington

Created by Aimee Hix

“He picked up the bottle. It was surprisingly sexy, the way he eyed me the whole time he put the bottle to his mouth, closing his lips around the rim slowly, and took a long swallow. He never took his eyes off me even as he put the bottle basck dowen on the table. My libido threatened to turn lava hot as I watched him lick the last of the soda off his lip…”

New writer Hix may not have come up with the most original title in her first P.I. novel, What Doesn’t Kill You (2018), but she makes up for it in spades by naming her whiny private eye hero “WILLA PENNINGTON.”

I mean, Willa? Really?

Still, for those looking for something a little different, this one might satisfy you.

Seems Willa, a former cop, has had it with the life of a police officer, what with the endless paperwork, bulletproof vests and working death notifications. So, her police career four months in the rearview, she’s decided to go for her P.I. ticket by working as an apprentice for Pennington Investigations, run by her dad, a former military officer.

Not that she seems particularly happy about it. But then, happiness isn’t exactly Willa’s thing. Not Willa. She’s a messed up kinda gal, with a couple of chips on her shoulder, (don’t get her started on “sexist, macho crap”), still trying to get over her best friend Michael’s death in Afghanistan, a troublesome sexual hookup she still regrets, a serious addiction to junk food, self-pity and not-so-wise wisecracks, and a propensity for self-pity and over-sharing. As she puts it, “Why the fuck couldn’t the universe just stop kicking me in the chest?”

So, while her parents are off on vacation and she’s crashing at the their place, moping and feeling sorry for herself, she worms her way into a case, without anyone asking her.

For all of their quirks and peccadilloes (the jogging, the white wine, the little black dresses, etc.), the first wave of female eyes back in the eighties were more or less stable. Whereas Willa’s hard-boiled, all right — or more precisely, over-boiled, like a noddle that’s been left in the pot too long. When we first meet her, she seems like one crying jag away from losing it completely.

Which is why the sequel, Dark Streets Cold Suburbs (2019), was such a relief. Looks like Willa’s grown up, working as her father’s partner, and seems to be recovering both emotionally and physically, after the events of the first book.


  • “One of the best debut efforts I’ve ever seen. Tight plotting, edge-of-your-seat suspense and a protagonist in PI Willa Pennington you’ll want to read about again and again. I couldn’t put this book down.”
    — Maggie Barbieri
  • “A debut that saddles tough-girl noir with the heart of a cozy.”
    — Kirkus Reviews
  • “Flawed, tough, irreverent, Willa is a character you want to cheer even as you shake your head at her judgement.”
    — Cheryl A. Head (March 2020, CrimeReads)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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