I missed Linda Lee Peterson's first novel, and instead dove right in with The Devil's Interval
I think that starting with book 2, as it turns out, was Just Fine.
Peterson is quite ambitious, and tries to accomplish a lot, weaving together a complex plot, a lot of local San Francisco atmosphere, and some fairly strong secondary characters.
I think she is at her best when she channels her inner Janet Evanovich, with passages like:
He sat down gingerly on the edge of his chair. "Where's Michael?"
"Out being Father of the Year, where else? Leading his admirable, sainted, patient, kind, generous, self-righteous life," I said. I think I was shouting. I shook the thermos. It was full. "Coffee, and it's hot? Or, do you want tea?"
He waved his hand. "Whatever you're drinking, I guess." He hesitated. "You seem like you're on a roller coaster between manic and depressive, with a hangover holding the whole thing together."
"Right you are," I said grimly.
Peterson needs to develop this, but she's definitely got the skills to pull it off.
Where she struggles, I think, is in her attempt to simultaneously incorporate a harder edge, stirring in some grit and tragedy. It just isn't in her to have her bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, unstoppable heroine-with-the-two-kids-and-the-suburban-household down in the muck and the mire. This part of The Devil's Interval is clearly heart-felt, but lacks depth and plausibility.
Still, her story moves at an enjoyable pace, and I was never bored or frustrated.
I see that she's now published a third Maggie Fiori novel, perhaps I will give it a try!