The Company You Keep
Angela Henry
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Buy *The Company You Keep: A Kendra Clayton Novel* online

The Company You Keep

Angela Henry
Sepia/BET Books
211 pages
May 2005
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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Twenty-eight-year-old Kendra Clayton is after nothing more than making ends meet as a part-time GED instructor and restaurant hostess (and maybe running into Mr. Right) in her hometown of Willow, Ohio. Then her best friend's gigolo boyfriend turns up brutally murdered, and Kendra finds herself a police suspect. As she unravels the secret pasts of people she thought she knew, she may just have finally met that Mr. Right - only he's the soon-to-be ex of the dead man's last conquest.

Angela Henry's debut Kendra Clayton novel heralds a strong new voice in amateur-sleuth mysteries as well as a character certain to make her mark in both the African-American female investigator category and the wider genre. Twenty-something Kendra, whose career goals are as uncertain as her yo-yoing dress size (she's got sizes six to sixteen hanging in her closet), is smart, sassy, self-deprecating, sarcastic, and warmly dedicated to her well-meaning but sometimes maddening friends and family in small-town Willow.

Kendra's friend Bernie confides that her shark of a boyfriend is cheating on her with the white woman renting a house Bernie owns - and within the hour of that confession, Bernie calls Kendra hysterically with the news that she's found Jordan - said playa - beaten to death in that very house. The police suspect Bernie, and when she asks Kendra to withhold a small piece of information from the detectives, Kendra's own suspicions are raised. She sets out to find the truth behind Jordan's death and discovers a web of kept secrets and hidden pasts entangling friends and acquaintances she realizes she barely knows. But her curiosity and need to know her friend is innocent put Kendra herself in the vengeful path of a killer - and send her into the arms of a man whose own motives are in question. 

Willow, Ohio, has its fair share of eccentric characters and nosy neighbors, as well as the sometimes-dark secrets any small town harbors and keeps, and as much enjoyment is had reading of Kendra's interactions with her fellow Willow-ites as is found in the mystery's unraveling - and in Kendra's quest for Mr. Right. Angela Henry has a future ahead of her with Kendra Clayton; may her readership do naught but grow.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Sharon Schulz-Elsing, 2005

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