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Pay Dirt Road

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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 n 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.


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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 n 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.

30 review for Pay Dirt Road

  1. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    3.5 stars, rounded down I was drawn to this debut novel as its author won the 2019 Tony Hillerman award for best first mystery set in the southwest. The story follows Annie, a young woman recently returned to her small hometown in Texas after graduating from college. There’s a recession going on and she finds work as a waitress. After a bonfire party, another waitress, a work friend, goes missing. Annie, the granddaughter of a retired sheriff, now a private investigator, decides to investigate on 3.5 stars, rounded down I was drawn to this debut novel as its author won the 2019 Tony Hillerman award for best first mystery set in the southwest. The story follows Annie, a young woman recently returned to her small hometown in Texas after graduating from college. There’s a recession going on and she finds work as a waitress. After a bonfire party, another waitress, a work friend, goes missing. Annie, the granddaughter of a retired sheriff, now a private investigator, decides to investigate on her own. Annie was a compelling character and fully formed. While the book kept my interest, I didn’t find it particularly engrossing. It doesn’t really cover any new ground. Allen does a good job of presenting a scene and it was easy to envision the book playing out. I thought the ending worked well and I didn’t foresee who was responsible until almost the end. This book is set up to allow for a second in a series and I liked this enough I would read the next book. My thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book Clubbed

    A paint-by-numbers mystery that I will surely forget about by next month. Our lead character is a cypher to follow around, a vanilla wafer turned into a human being, although I don't mean to slander vanilla wafers. Serious problems and societal issues are introduced to artificially lend the plot gravity. The trite, superficial handling of such issues is lazy plotting at best, actively harmful at worst. The dialogue is stale and unrealistic. In almost every scene, a character is interrogated, and A paint-by-numbers mystery that I will surely forget about by next month. Our lead character is a cypher to follow around, a vanilla wafer turned into a human being, although I don't mean to slander vanilla wafers. Serious problems and societal issues are introduced to artificially lend the plot gravity. The trite, superficial handling of such issues is lazy plotting at best, actively harmful at worst. The dialogue is stale and unrealistic. In almost every scene, a character is interrogated, and they immediately confess new information or deny everything. Either way, Annie says "OK," and walks away, evidently blessed with the poorest investigative detective skills since the child contestants on "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    The late Tony Hillerman was one of my treasures. His mysteries set in Navajo country revealed the beauty of the land and the culture, and were driven by unforgettable characters. His passing left a large void in my reading regimen. Samantha Jayne Allen's "Pay Dirt Road" won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize given for the best first mystery set in the southwest. Big shoes to fill. I loved the location setup. The main character, Annie McIntyre, has reluctantly returned from college to her old hometown The late Tony Hillerman was one of my treasures. His mysteries set in Navajo country revealed the beauty of the land and the culture, and were driven by unforgettable characters. His passing left a large void in my reading regimen. Samantha Jayne Allen's "Pay Dirt Road" won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize given for the best first mystery set in the southwest. Big shoes to fill. I loved the location setup. The main character, Annie McIntyre, has reluctantly returned from college to her old hometown of Garnett, Texas-- where there did not seem much to do other than watch trains and "doing donuts in the Walmart parking lot". Annie is working as a waitress, just sort of drifting along, when two murders happen on the same day. One victim was a coworker of hers and she feels she could have done something to prevent this tragedy. It just so happens her crusty old grandpa used to be the town sheriff and now runs a private investigation firm-- just the contrivance to pull her into the world of crime solving. Annie is going to have to be a lot more determined to convince us she has private eye potential. She blunders into some dangerous situations and is not especially clever in her methods. The plot is pretty simple and moves slowly at times, but it is a decent setup for a series-- provided that Annie sharpens her skills. A good debut. Thank you St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I was born and raised in small-town Nebraska. This is what drew me to pick up Samantha Jayne Allen's debut, Pay Dirt Road, a mystery about a a young woman looking for answers about the disappearance of her coworker and friend. Minotaur Books and Net Galley were kind enough to share a copy with me to read and review. Annie is back home after college, having piled up student debt, with no great job openings on her horizons. When her coworker and young, single mother, Victoria, disappears soon after I was born and raised in small-town Nebraska. This is what drew me to pick up Samantha Jayne Allen's debut, Pay Dirt Road, a mystery about a a young woman looking for answers about the disappearance of her coworker and friend. Minotaur Books and Net Galley were kind enough to share a copy with me to read and review. Annie is back home after college, having piled up student debt, with no great job openings on her horizons. When her coworker and young, single mother, Victoria, disappears soon after she last saw her, Annie finds herself drawn into investigating where she's disappeared to and what happened. The entire tone of this mystery rings with authenticity. This mystery blows like a lazy tumbleweed down a Texan highway on a breezy day during the dog days of summer, until the ever fickle Texas wind picks it up and hurtles it towards where it will finally rest. Set in a small town with an oil company set up to become dominant, there are numerous motivations and candidates for a suspect. Some readers will recognize the guilty party nearly immediately, like I did. Yet my conviction wavered as I came across other candidates and potential motives, with a couple seeming entirely plausible. Annie's investigation skills don't especially help matters. She went off to college not sure she'd want to return home, so now that she's back, her confidence seems shaken, and with her richly interwoven personal and family history, even more reason for this to be. Mistakes common enough to young people of her age are made, giving things a realistic slant. Some common, overused mystery tropes are brought into play, not entirely helping or harming the story. The primary one being alcoholism, although in this instance it's her grandfather's and not her own. Also, she indubitably manages to stir up the hornets' nest, only to be threatened and more. However, the author included issues in the threat that young women often face in our present day and age, and I respected this divergence from the run-of-the-mill threats often made in mysteries. The book ends with Annie having learned some things the hard way and better respecting the unpredictability and bittersweet nature of life. She has definitely shown some growth. This could make a fantastic little mystery series, if the the author chooses to go that way. I would enjoy seeing where life takes this new private investigator and her family and friends. It's definitely worth purchasing a copy if you enjoy the genre. It publishes on April 19, 2022, if you'd like to do so.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen is one of the snippets from The Minotaur Sampler, Volume 4: New Books to Make Your Heart Race, that I liked well enough to get my hands on the entire novel. The story is set in a fictional oil town in Texas called Garnett, where Annie McIntyre works as a waitress. She’s a recent college graduate with plenty of gumption by not much sense of direction. When her grandpa Leroy, who is supposedly retired, entices her into the family’s private investigation busine Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen is one of the snippets from The Minotaur Sampler, Volume 4: New Books to Make Your Heart Race, that I liked well enough to get my hands on the entire novel. The story is set in a fictional oil town in Texas called Garnett, where Annie McIntyre works as a waitress. She’s a recent college graduate with plenty of gumption by not much sense of direction. When her grandpa Leroy, who is supposedly retired, entices her into the family’s private investigation business, Annie finds herself deeply enmeshed in something far beyond anything she has ever experienced. Victoria is a waitress at the restaurant where Annie works. The last time Annie sees her is at a party; she fails to show up for work the next day, and Annie recalls seeing her, appearing quite drunk, making out with a guy at the party. She thinks maybe she went home with him or is sleeping it off. But when Victoria fails to return her texts or calls, Annie goes to her house. Not long afterward, she learns that her body has been found. This is just after a hit-and-run accident that killed a man. Things like this don’t happen in Garnett, Texas. Are the two deaths related? Annie is supposed to just do clerical jobs, according to Mary-Pat Zimmerman, Leroy’s partner, but Leroy takes her along on his excursions to dig up information. At times, however, it is Annie who does much of the questioning, as Leroy comes across as a laid-back former sheriff just a’ lookin’ fer a howdy – and a beer. We don’t often see Leroy without a drink. Mary-Pat, on the other hand, is pretty much all business, and she is quite concerned about Annie’s safety when the going gets tough. And it does. A suspect is arrested. Annie and others who know him are in disbelief. Annie is out to find the real culprit, but will anyone give her a chance? Will they believe her? Annie has gone through tough times before, but her family and friends don’t know it, not even her cousin Nikki, who is her best friend. The two young women live together, hang out together, and share secrets – at least some of them. But there are some things that Annie does not share. These are things that she recalls as she reflects upon the life and death of her friend Victoria. Victoria became a mother too soon and was in the process of getting a divorce. She was experiencing freedom again, and this caused small town tongues to wag. People, even those close to her, judged her. Annie, it seems, comes to feel differently. If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, you won’t find it in this book. This is a slow, Texas drawl. It’s about the good and the bad of family, small town living, and the oil business. There are cultural issues like alcoholism and abuse of women. There’s the glass ceiling that Mary-Pat has cracked, and perhaps Annie will too. Are there stereotypes? Yes, of course. Our society is full of them, and art reflects those. This is a commendable debut novel by Samantha Jayne Allen. I wish to thank NetGalley, the author, and Minotaur Books for the ARC copy of Pay Dirt Road in return for my honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 4 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Picked up this debut novel as it sounded intriguing. Annie has graduated college and returned to her hometown in Texas. While she's trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, she works as a waitress. A waitress she's been working with disappears after a bonfire party, and Annie is drawn to the mystery of finding out what happened to her. Her grandfather, who is a retired sheriff, is now a private investigator. Annie teams up with her grandfather and his partner to find out what hap Picked up this debut novel as it sounded intriguing. Annie has graduated college and returned to her hometown in Texas. While she's trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, she works as a waitress. A waitress she's been working with disappears after a bonfire party, and Annie is drawn to the mystery of finding out what happened to her. Her grandfather, who is a retired sheriff, is now a private investigator. Annie teams up with her grandfather and his partner to find out what happened to the waitress. There are some interesting twists and turns to this story and a few diversions in the investigation. I liked the book and if there is another in the series (sounds like there may be) I would like to read it. I did not guess the ending on this one, so it was a surprise. I liked Annie's character, and I really enjoyed her grandfather and his partner too. Thanks to St. Martin's Press through Netgalley for an advance copy. This book will be published on April 19, 2022.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beary Into Books

    Rating 3 🐻🐻🐻 Author: Samantha Jayne Allen Publication Date: 4/19/2022 “Friday Night Lights meets Mare of Easttown in this small-town mystery about an unlikely private investigator searching for a missing waitress.” This was an interesting small town mystery that I found to be good/okay. From the beginning I struggled to connect and get into the writing style. I’m not sure what it was but it definitely wasn’t my favorite. It also took me longer to read this one because nothing grabbed me. Usually wit Rating 3 🐻🐻🐻 Author: Samantha Jayne Allen Publication Date: 4/19/2022 “Friday Night Lights meets Mare of Easttown in this small-town mystery about an unlikely private investigator searching for a missing waitress.” This was an interesting small town mystery that I found to be good/okay. From the beginning I struggled to connect and get into the writing style. I’m not sure what it was but it definitely wasn’t my favorite. It also took me longer to read this one because nothing grabbed me. Usually with a mystery you keep thinking about it or wanting to know how it ends. Sadly, with this book I never felt that and even struggled to continue reading it. I think that has to do with the story being very basic and the mystery being very simple. From the tagline given, I was expecting a lot more than what I received. I will say, I do love how the characters were written and thought the author did a great job with them. I also enjoyed the small town setting because it added something extra to the story. Overall, this book was good and I do recommend it to others who want a quick read. **Thank you so much @stmartinspress & @minotaur_books for the #gifted copy (#partner) in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Annie McIntyre has finished college with no clear direction, landing back in her small hometown of Garnett, Texas waiting tables at the local diner. Her sort-of retired lawman grandfather still dabbles in a PI firm and brings Annie into an investigation of a missing waitress. It isn’t long before the truth begins to reveal itself as Annie’s questions around town stir up shady environmental dealings and a disturbing personal experience for the unintentional new PI. This story isn’t the gritty noir Annie McIntyre has finished college with no clear direction, landing back in her small hometown of Garnett, Texas waiting tables at the local diner. Her sort-of retired lawman grandfather still dabbles in a PI firm and brings Annie into an investigation of a missing waitress. It isn’t long before the truth begins to reveal itself as Annie’s questions around town stir up shady environmental dealings and a disturbing personal experience for the unintentional new PI. This story isn’t the gritty noir I expected but it certainly wasn’t a cozy mystery either. Pay Dirt Road is a promising debut with strong writing and I enjoyed this as a character study. That said, this story has been done time and again. As Annie’s past experience is revealed, I easily knew who the “big bad” was going to be and tie in to her investigation. The environmental issues that acted to further part of the plot felt unnecessary here and it’s been used before. The Texas oil fields and honky tonks are all tropes but here Samantha Jayne Allen managed to create an atmosphere that brought me right into the story and held my interest even as we headed toward the conclusion I’d already pieced together. Thanks to Minotuar Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Pay Dirt Road is scheduled for release on April 19, 2022. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mandy White (mandylovestoread)

    I was seeing Pay Dirt Road all over Bookstagram and I needed to read it. A big thank you to Recorded Books and Netgalley for my advanced audio copy to listen to. Over 2 days I was immersed in this small town murder mystery and I loved it. Set in Texas (which is somewhere that I have always wanted to go), a young woman goes missing and is later found murdered. Annie McIntyre teams up with her grandfather who is the town's PI to find the killer. Annie worked in the local diner with the victim and w I was seeing Pay Dirt Road all over Bookstagram and I needed to read it. A big thank you to Recorded Books and Netgalley for my advanced audio copy to listen to. Over 2 days I was immersed in this small town murder mystery and I loved it. Set in Texas (which is somewhere that I have always wanted to go), a young woman goes missing and is later found murdered. Annie McIntyre teams up with her grandfather who is the town's PI to find the killer. Annie worked in the local diner with the victim and wants to find justice. This is a slow burn but one that kept me interested all the way through. I loved the characters and the secrets they were all hiding. The ending was surprising and really well done. Crime fiction and murder mystery fans will enjoy this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lou Jacobs

    PAY DIRT ROAD by Samantha Jayne Allen Publication: 4/19/22 by St Martin’s Press / Minotaur Books A tantalizing murder mystery debut that transitions smoothly to a nostalgic slice of life as our heroine struggles with gaining purpose and self-actualization. Annie McIntyre fought hard to leave her small town of Garnett, Texas and obtain a college education. However, after graduation she find herself returning home, to friends and family, and feeling rudderless. She’s living with her beloved cousin PAY DIRT ROAD by Samantha Jayne Allen Publication: 4/19/22 by St Martin’s Press / Minotaur Books A tantalizing murder mystery debut that transitions smoothly to a nostalgic slice of life as our heroine struggles with gaining purpose and self-actualization. Annie McIntyre fought hard to leave her small town of Garnett, Texas and obtain a college education. However, after graduation she find herself returning home, to friends and family, and feeling rudderless. She’s living with her beloved cousin Nikki and waitressing at the town’s cafe, and apparently it’s main gathering place. She’s begun to form loose bonds with her workmates… including young single mother, Victoria, Fernando the cook, and the owner, Marlene. She collides with her past at the bonfire party on the Schneider’s south pasture. Everyone is there … not only Justin and Troy Scneider, but many of her high school friends, and rivals . Even the perennial home coming queen, holding court on a tailgate. It congers up many rivalries in the past with Ashley, Sabrina and Macy. As well as, attempted repressed memories of attending a college party as a seventeen-year old high school senior. Afterwards, she stopped drinking until her twenty-first birthday. She even runs into Wyatt Reed, her very first boyfriend, and wonders what might have been. He’s one year older, and already in graduate school, while she’s floundering. Her workmate, Victoria also shows up and quickly appears inebriated. She has once considered going to law school, but put it on hold. Her family has a long line of being involved in law enforcement … her father, a cop, and her grandfather, Leroy… once a cop and for a short time the county sheriff, and now almost retired but working with his old partner, Mary-Pat Zimmerman in a private investigation firm. She was approached about working with the firm , doing part-time secretarial work, but she envisions a possible role as an apprentice to learn the business. The morning after the bonfire, she learns that last night a bad accident occurred on the highway near their party. A man leaving a nearby club was walking home instead of driving and was struck by a vehicle, which sped away. And now, Victoria is missing. Several days later, Victoria’s body is found by law enforcement in a shallow grave, on Leroy’s land, and near the same highway. Coincidence? Two violent deaths in the same small town - a few miles apart, on the same night. Shortly after, Fernando is arrested for Victoria’s murder. His grandmother hires Mary-Pat and Leroy’s firm to investigate and prove Fernando’s innocence. He adamantly provides an alibi with a young women at a bar …. doesn’t remember her name, but provides a description that rings bells in Annie’s memory. Suddenly Annie is actively investigating on her own … following up leads that result in actually verifying his alibi. However, the woman is an illegal alien and will not come forward, for fear of being deported. As Annie continues to dig, she becomes enraptured with her need to seek justice and search for the truth. Someone paints on her car’s back window: “ U R NEXT “ …. she knows she’s close and won’t stop. Samantha Jayne Allen crafts a slow burn mystery, with many twists and reveals, while providing a host of possible suspects. The strength of her writing is in her almost lyrical prose and the depth of her characterization of Annie, that provides a multi-dimensional picture that sticks indelibly in the reader’s mind. Explored are the themes of self-discovery, and the challenges and hardships encountered in small town life, especially for young women. Thanks to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press / Minotaur Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shereadbookblog

    Faced with no job prospects and no money for grad school, Annie returns to her hometown in hardscrabble Texas where she waits tables at the town diner. When a fellow waitress goes missing and is found dead, Annie gets caught up in an investigation. It took a while to get into the pursuit of the mystery, but the beginning (and throughout) was a good character study of small town Texas. Extremely atmospheric, I could see the spray painted stop signs, the trash in the alleys, the weeds growing up t Faced with no job prospects and no money for grad school, Annie returns to her hometown in hardscrabble Texas where she waits tables at the town diner. When a fellow waitress goes missing and is found dead, Annie gets caught up in an investigation. It took a while to get into the pursuit of the mystery, but the beginning (and throughout) was a good character study of small town Texas. Extremely atmospheric, I could see the spray painted stop signs, the trash in the alleys, the weeds growing up through the concrete. The entire book is very descriptive…the sights, the smells….while the case is slow to unfold. If you want to savor these, it is not a fast read. There really are two stories here. The primary seems to be more Annie’s family and her background history in her small town, with the murder almost secondary. Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the DRC

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Trying to figure out her life Annie returns home from college to live with her cousin and work at the local diner. When her co-worker disappears and is later found murdered the mystery begins! And Annie becomes involved in the investigation. Author Samantha Jayne Allen keeps the reader guessing throughout and for a debut novel it was a satisfying read. Narrator Sandy Rustin did a fabulous job! Thank you to NetGalley and RB Media (Recorded Books) for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest rev Trying to figure out her life Annie returns home from college to live with her cousin and work at the local diner. When her co-worker disappears and is later found murdered the mystery begins! And Annie becomes involved in the investigation. Author Samantha Jayne Allen keeps the reader guessing throughout and for a debut novel it was a satisfying read. Narrator Sandy Rustin did a fabulous job! Thank you to NetGalley and RB Media (Recorded Books) for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    This was very much like a ‘pass the time’ comfort read to me. It was a fine mystery with at least fairly likable characters. Our main character, a young 20-something fresh out of college, isn’t sure what to do with her life just yet, and finds herself involved in the family business of solving crimes. When a coworker of hers is found murdered, Annie finds herself pushed to solve it and finding a reason to stay in her small town that she thought she escaped from with a college education. The set This was very much like a ‘pass the time’ comfort read to me. It was a fine mystery with at least fairly likable characters. Our main character, a young 20-something fresh out of college, isn’t sure what to do with her life just yet, and finds herself involved in the family business of solving crimes. When a coworker of hers is found murdered, Annie finds herself pushed to solve it and finding a reason to stay in her small town that she thought she escaped from with a college education. The setting of deep Texas was utilized well to create a kind of culture around it. I think there were a little too many side characters and time jumping around that made the story a bit confusing and muddled occasionally. I guessed the culprit (go me!) but that didn’t make it less interesting in this case since it was a fairly good turn. I did like its voice and perspective around feminism in the south and problems with rape culture in a lot of the communities around it. Patriarchy was the real villain here and I can get behind that. Overall, it was an easy listen and a decent way to spend a few hours. It felt like cable tv. Thanks to Netgalley and RB media for a copy of this audiobook. Narrated by Sandy Rustin who did a good job but boy was it accented, often heavily.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen follows twenty-something Annie McIntyre as she pitches in to solve the murder of a woman in the small Texas town of Garnett. McIntyre, a recent college graduate, has returned home in an attempt to decide upon what future she wants to pursue. Working at a local diner, Annie becomes involved in several mysterious incidents, one of which causes deep-seated personal issues of her own to rise to the surface. These issues then force her to deal with a past she has Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen follows twenty-something Annie McIntyre as she pitches in to solve the murder of a woman in the small Texas town of Garnett. McIntyre, a recent college graduate, has returned home in an attempt to decide upon what future she wants to pursue. Working at a local diner, Annie becomes involved in several mysterious incidents, one of which causes deep-seated personal issues of her own to rise to the surface. These issues then force her to deal with a past she has so long preferred to push aside both on purpose and subconsciously. At the diner working with Annie is Victoria, a single mother with a more exuberant lifestyle than Annie and more so than the local conservative Garnett residents care for. After Victoria is reported missing, with many not too concerned and believing she will just show up, Annie, with a familial criminal investigation pedigree and an internal knack for criminal investigations, joins with her grandfather and his private investigation business to start asking questions. Questions not only about Victoria but also another local mysterious killing, leading to the creation of unease among not only those responsible but from others as well. From there, the novel, while not purely a police procedural or a cozy mystery, moves forward further developing characters and plot lines to a worthwhile conclusion. Upon first reading a description of this novel, the novel was thought to be a gritty, country-noirish novel, however, it is not that and that is quite all right. Pay Dirt Road is a novel where the writer deftly introduces her characters and allows them to slowly develop and breathe. It is also with needed red herrings and a satisfying ending appearing to be more in line with good storytelling rather than shock and awe results and last page resolutions. Pay Dirt Road does not contain graphic language or depictions of extreme violence or acts of sexuality. Pay Dirt Road is recommended to those that enjoy blossoming character development with realistic plots that don’t rely upon extreme surprises to entice readers. Pay Dirt Road is set to be published in April of 2022. Netgalley provided an ARC for the promise of a fair review. This review was originally published at MysteryandSuspence.com.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jamele (BookswithJams)

    This one is on the slower side, so if that is not your thing then this is probably not for you. This is set in small town Texas, which is how I grew up so I was immediately interested once I realized this. Annie and her grandfather Leroy, the town’s PI, are working to solve the case of a missing waitress, and they uncover much more than they bargained for. This was very well done, and while I figured it out before the end, I was still very interested in how it was going to wrap up so it didn’t c This one is on the slower side, so if that is not your thing then this is probably not for you. This is set in small town Texas, which is how I grew up so I was immediately interested once I realized this. Annie and her grandfather Leroy, the town’s PI, are working to solve the case of a missing waitress, and they uncover much more than they bargained for. This was very well done, and while I figured it out before the end, I was still very interested in how it was going to wrap up so it didn’t change how I felt at all. Many of the characters have secrets to they are hiding, and it was a joy to see Annie and Leroy’s relationship as they worked together to uncover these secrets in order to solve the case. Thank you to Minotaur Books for the ARC to review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ABookwormWithWine

    3.5/5 (rounded up) Pay Dirt Road: A Novel is Samantha Jayne Allen's debut novel, and while I haven't watched Friday Night Lights, I definitely agree with the sentiment that it has strong Mare of Easttown vibes. That was also a very slow burn as well as being more character-driven, which is exactly how I felt about this book. There is a mystery of course, but there is also a lot of focus on Annie as a character and how she interacts with the other people in this story. I really enjoyed how Allen b 3.5/5 (rounded up) Pay Dirt Road: A Novel is Samantha Jayne Allen's debut novel, and while I haven't watched Friday Night Lights, I definitely agree with the sentiment that it has strong Mare of Easttown vibes. That was also a very slow burn as well as being more character-driven, which is exactly how I felt about this book. There is a mystery of course, but there is also a lot of focus on Annie as a character and how she interacts with the other people in this story. I really enjoyed how Allen brought small-town Texas to life, and at times, it reminded me a lot of watching the movie Erin Brockovich. The audiobook is narrated by Sandy Rustin, and I was really impressed with her voicing for this book. She was perfect for Annie and did a great job enhancing the story for me. She really pulled me in and helped keep my attention on what was going on. Pay Dirt Road could easily be the first of a series, and I would be interested to see more of Annie as I think her character has a lot of potential for growth. I don't know if the end totally shocked me, but one part was pretty surprising, and I really enjoyed the road taken to get there. I would recommend this to fans of slower burns and character-driven mysteries. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    ForTheThrillofBooks

    In a nutshell: Annie, a recent college graduate, moves back to her small town and takes a waitressing job while trying to figure out what she wants to do. When her friend/co-worker goes missing after a bonfire, Annie finds herself lured into the family’s private investigation firm. While trying to piece together what happened that night, Annie is forced to confront the similarities to her own past. I really enjoyed this book. It’s a slow burn mystery with atmospheric small town vibes and characte In a nutshell: Annie, a recent college graduate, moves back to her small town and takes a waitressing job while trying to figure out what she wants to do. When her friend/co-worker goes missing after a bonfire, Annie finds herself lured into the family’s private investigation firm. While trying to piece together what happened that night, Annie is forced to confront the similarities to her own past. I really enjoyed this book. It’s a slow burn mystery with atmospheric small town vibes and characters as well as the added element of political/environmental issues when an oil company becomes involved. Along with the disappearance, you also get glimpses into parts of Annies past that she is struggling to remember and come to terms with. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a fast paced edge of your seat read, you won’t find it here. This is a classic rural character driven mystery, with familial ties incased in a mystery. If this turns into a series I will definitely check out the next book. 3.5 ⭐️

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    This book leaves a lot to be desired. There is so many layers that the author wants you to care about, yet she doesn't tell them all. The relationship between Annies dad an Leroy. Leroy and Mary pat, etc. The other thing with this book was the segues were baffling. For instance, Annie and Leroy go to a honky tonk, the prime suspects come in and Annie steps into the shadows. THE NEXT SENTENCE is Annie and Leroy waking up in her car. WHAT HAPPENED?! Another time, Annie goes swimming in a river, the nex This book leaves a lot to be desired. There is so many layers that the author wants you to care about, yet she doesn't tell them all. The relationship between Annies dad an Leroy. Leroy and Mary pat, etc. The other thing with this book was the segues were baffling. For instance, Annie and Leroy go to a honky tonk, the prime suspects come in and Annie steps into the shadows. THE NEXT SENTENCE is Annie and Leroy waking up in her car. WHAT HAPPENED?! Another time, Annie goes swimming in a river, the next minute she is back with a Wyatt? but then Wyatt is really there. The real killers...when you find out, meh, who cares. It was over in 3 pages. You read the entire book for that? What happened to Leroy? Was he attacked? Did he have a heart attack? Who knows? Not the reader This book is a meh book. Not great, not even that good, but I was in between reviews, so I read it. Better thriller/mystery books out there. Thanks to Netgalley and to the publisher who gave me this ARC in return for this honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim Thomsen

    Enjoyable debut, rich in local rural Texas color and colorful complications. The main character, too, is refreshingly and realistically complicated: college-aged but adrift, living mostly on distractions and dishwater tips and dealing with men who aren't quite right for her even if she can't quite see it clearly. She doesn't make for a particularly convincing detective, but her dogged pursuit of the truth and her determination to do justice by those who have been wronged, even as she struggles t Enjoyable debut, rich in local rural Texas color and colorful complications. The main character, too, is refreshingly and realistically complicated: college-aged but adrift, living mostly on distractions and dishwater tips and dealing with men who aren't quite right for her even if she can't quite see it clearly. She doesn't make for a particularly convincing detective, but her dogged pursuit of the truth and her determination to do justice by those who have been wronged, even as she struggles to get out of her own distracted way, are not just admirable but admirably human. It's nice to see a crime-solver who's a hot mess without being a hyper-stylized, hyper-sexualized hot mess ala Stephanie Plum. Looking forward to seeing Annie McIntyre grow in further adventures, though hopefully in stories with more plausible climactic scenes (the one in PAY DIRT ROAD will make readers sprain their eyeballs while rolling them, it’s so slapdash and implausible) and perhaps a few fewer peripheral characters.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    Friday Night Lights meets Mare of Eastown? YES PLEASE. However, I would not compare this book to either of those shows so I felt a little misled. Sure it took place in a small town and dealt with an investigation, but that's about where the similarities started and ended. The premise of this novel is great - a young waitress goes missing and her body turns up a couple weeks later. Coinciding with the horrific murder was a hit and run that took place the same night the woman went missing. A town i Friday Night Lights meets Mare of Eastown? YES PLEASE. However, I would not compare this book to either of those shows so I felt a little misled. Sure it took place in a small town and dealt with an investigation, but that's about where the similarities started and ended. The premise of this novel is great - a young waitress goes missing and her body turns up a couple weeks later. Coinciding with the horrific murder was a hit and run that took place the same night the woman went missing. A town is rocked to its core. The local police department is in way over its head and everyone is a suspect. Meanwhile, the town is under siege by huge corporations looking to build a pipeline through the county. Is everything connected or is their little town just not so sleepy after all? This novel reminded me quite a bit of Everything We Didn't Say with the small town murder and environmental aspects. I didn't enjoy Everything We Didn't Say though so maybe books with the environmental premise just aren't for me. The first 25% of this book was incredibly slow. There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary character building and I wasn't very invested in the characters so even with the in depth details about them, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight. Once we got to the meat of the story, the pacing improved, but I still struggled to maintain interest. It took me a minute to catch on to the killer but once I did, it felt glaringly obvious. There were some small twists I wasn't expecting but they were just kind of thrown in at the end in a cleanup chapter which I generally dislike. All in all this was an okay read but not one that will likely stick with me. However, the writing was well done and the plot had a lot of potential so I will definitely read more from this author. Thank you to Minotaur and NetGalley for a copy of this novel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    Pay Dirt Road by @samallenwrites has the perfect small town, middle of nowhere, scrappy lead female character whose life is a little in shambles, missing person mystery vibe that I just freaking love. It completely reminded me of the movie Wind River (which I frigging LOVE that movie) - tensions between a town and incoming oil developers. Small town folk who’ve never left. Secrets and drama and history that threatens to erupt at every turn. I devoured it, it’s a weekend reading date you’ll love.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Collette

    Pay Dirt Road is a contemporary small-town mystery by Samantha Jayne Allen, winner of the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize for best first mystery set in the southwest. While Allen weaves an atmospheric, regional tale with strong writing and an intriguing who-done-it plot, the overall story left me underwhelmed, and questioning some of the character dynamics. After college, Annie McIntyre returns to her hometown of Garnett, Texas. feeling conflicted and haunted by her past. With a recession in place and Pay Dirt Road is a contemporary small-town mystery by Samantha Jayne Allen, winner of the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize for best first mystery set in the southwest. While Allen weaves an atmospheric, regional tale with strong writing and an intriguing who-done-it plot, the overall story left me underwhelmed, and questioning some of the character dynamics. After college, Annie McIntyre returns to her hometown of Garnett, Texas. feeling conflicted and haunted by her past. With a recession in place and student loans to pay, she takes a job at the local cafe (owned by her aunt) and lives with her cousin, also one of her best friends. Unable to decide what to do with her life, she is drawn to her grandfather Leroy’s private investigation business and starts working for him when her co-worker, a waitress at the cafe, goes missing one night. Annie seems to have a detective’s pursuit for justice in her blood, and her relationship with her grandfather is endearing and entertaining. As the mystery deepens and suspects emerge, there are points when her methods seem not just amateurish, which was probably the intent, but questionable and unprofessional. Her ambiguity toward her life and relationships also make the character feel a bit cliched (the confused, insecure young girl who parties a lot). Some readers mentioned they figured out who the killer was long before it was revealed, but I have to say I did not, because it wasn’t believable to me due to weak character development. There were also many overused phrases and actions that grew tiresome (a lot of drinking, crying and things that “made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,”). Allen does possess a great talent for painting a picture with her small-town Texas setting. I can’t give this story less than three stars because of her gift for detail, “the front porch…crowded with two humming brown fridges next to a plastic-covered recliner, echoing wind chimes, and Mamaw’s orange trumpet vine tangled on a chipped white lattice.” However the slow pacing, combined with many scenes that rang untrue or fell flat, left me wanting something with more substance and depth. Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and Minotaur Books for this ARC.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jay G

    Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer... *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review* After graduating college, and not sure what to do next, Annie returns to her small town in Texas. She finds herself brought into her grandfather Leroy's private investigating firm. When a local waitress goes missing, and a hit-and-run occurs, Leroy and Annie start investigating to see if the two deaths a Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer... *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review* After graduating college, and not sure what to do next, Annie returns to her small town in Texas. She finds herself brought into her grandfather Leroy's private investigating firm. When a local waitress goes missing, and a hit-and-run occurs, Leroy and Annie start investigating to see if the two deaths are related, and things begin to hit a bit to close to home. This was a very slow-paced read, and I never fully got into the story. I feel like this would make a good lifetime movie, it just gives off those vibes. I wasn't the biggest fan of Annie, just something about her rubbed me the wrong way. I just found her to be a bit uninteresting, and I didn't care about anything that happened to her. I listened to the audiobook, and do think the narrator did a good job with the voices and characters. But, overall I just found this to be a very average read, nothing special in my opinion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Hoover

    Annie McIntyre is a college graduate who reluctantly returns to her hometown of Garnett, Texas to work as a waitress. A recession is making it hard to find meaningful work leaving Annie pretty much adrift in a sea of college debt and wasted dreams. However, things quickly change when her new friend and fellow waitress Victoria disappears in thin air. In an effort to discover what happened to her, Annie teams up with her grandfather, the former sheriff and now private investigator, to search for Annie McIntyre is a college graduate who reluctantly returns to her hometown of Garnett, Texas to work as a waitress. A recession is making it hard to find meaningful work leaving Annie pretty much adrift in a sea of college debt and wasted dreams. However, things quickly change when her new friend and fellow waitress Victoria disappears in thin air. In an effort to discover what happened to her, Annie teams up with her grandfather, the former sheriff and now private investigator, to search for her friend. Pay Dirt Road is rich in small town atmosphere and characters. The simple plot line is well written with characters that feel authentic. While the pace is a bit slow, there are enough red herrings to keep readers guessing most of the way through. While Brooke tends to blunder her way into trouble without a clue what's she's doing, I like the character growth shown by the end. This story could take place in any dead, small town American town where the biggest thing happening is teenagers cutting donuts in the local Walmart's parking lot on Saturday night. I think Allen has laid the groundwork for a nice, light murder mystery series if she should so choose to do so. As a standalone, Pay Dirt Road would benefit from a bit more depth in my opinion. However, fans of lighter mysteries will enjoy this one. Special thanks to Minotaur Press for an arc of this book. Reviewed at Cross My Heart Reviews

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katie Long

    3.5 rounded up…so I guessed the murderer pretty early on, but that isn’t the author’s fault. It is my mother’s! She and I watched and read way too many true crime and murder shows for anything to surprise me now. What set this one apart from the countless murder books that I have read, are the well drawn characters. It’s intended to be a series, and I am definitely interested to see how these characters develop, so count me in!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    My husband and I listened to this audiobook on a long car ride. Unfortunately, we both felt that it was just okay. It mostly held our interest, but it felt slow and wasn’t all that engrossing. There was a fabulous sense of place, however, with the story taking taking place in a small town in Texas. The main character, Annie, is a recent college graduate who is waitressing in her home town while she tries to figure out her next move. One of her coworkers goes missing and that forms the basis of th My husband and I listened to this audiobook on a long car ride. Unfortunately, we both felt that it was just okay. It mostly held our interest, but it felt slow and wasn’t all that engrossing. There was a fabulous sense of place, however, with the story taking taking place in a small town in Texas. The main character, Annie, is a recent college graduate who is waitressing in her home town while she tries to figure out her next move. One of her coworkers goes missing and that forms the basis of the book’s main mystery. Her family has a tradition of law enforcement and her grandfather, a former sheriff, now has a small private investigation company with a female partner. Annie starts to work with her grandfather and partner, but she doesn’t have the experience to safely investigate and puts herself in danger over and over. One thing that I felt was realistic was how Annie felt about something that happened to her when she was in high school. (I can’t give more details without it being a spoiler.) A subtheme dealt with the effects of drilling for oil but its treatment of environmentalism was superficial at best. If there’s a sequel, we’ll be skipping it. “Too many books, too little time.” The audiobook was narrated beautifully by Sandy Rustin, who did a wonderful job with all the voices and accents. Thank you to Recorded Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to listen to an advance copy of this audiobook and to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance reader copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Allin

    There was nothing about this book that really got me excited. The characters were uninteresting, the plot was unoriginal, and the writing just bothered me. I couldn't tell if the author was attempting to copy the style of the area (small town Texas) but it extended beyond the dialogue of the characters. I found myself several times rereading something trying to make some sense of it. I considered putting it down more than once but something kept me going, so there's that. Bu I don't think this a There was nothing about this book that really got me excited. The characters were uninteresting, the plot was unoriginal, and the writing just bothered me. I couldn't tell if the author was attempting to copy the style of the area (small town Texas) but it extended beyond the dialogue of the characters. I found myself several times rereading something trying to make some sense of it. I considered putting it down more than once but something kept me going, so there's that. Bu I don't think this author is for me. I want to thank #NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)

    What It's About: When Annie's co-worker Victoria goes missing, she decides to investigate her disappearance with her grandfather Leroy, who runs McIntyre Investigates, a private investigation firm. My thoughts: I loved the small town setting in this book and the author did a wonderful job transported me to Garnett, Texas. I liked the close knit community in this small town. The thing that stood out for me the most was the endearing relationship between Annie and her grandfather. Leroy is What It's About: When Annie's co-worker Victoria goes missing, she decides to investigate her disappearance with her grandfather Leroy, who runs McIntyre Investigates, a private investigation firm. My thoughts: I loved the small town setting in this book and the author did a wonderful job transported me to Garnett, Texas. I liked the close knit community in this small town. The thing that stood out for me the most was the endearing relationship between Annie and her grandfather. Leroy is mentoring Annie, hoping she will join him in the family business one day. It was interesting to follow along their investigation. This book was pretty slow in the first part and it did take me some time to get invested in the story. But I am glad that things picked up from Part II onwards. I personally think this was more of a character driven mystery. Although the mystery was light and pretty straight forward, it was still a pretty enjoyable story! Pub. Date: April 19, 2022 ***Thank you Minotaur Books for this gifted ARC to read. All opinions expressed are my own.***

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessi - Jessisreadingbetweenthewines

    I really liked this character-driven story. The investment I felt in Annie’s life and all those around her was immediate. I wasn’t shocked when the big reveal came but I had only narrowed it down to two possibilities, so I was glad I didn’t ever know for sure. The writing was good and very descriptive and there was even an eminent domain element to the story, which I enjoyed even more because of my husband’s legal practice focusing on that niche. As long as you go into this knowing that we are f I really liked this character-driven story. The investment I felt in Annie’s life and all those around her was immediate. I wasn’t shocked when the big reveal came but I had only narrowed it down to two possibilities, so I was glad I didn’t ever know for sure. The writing was good and very descriptive and there was even an eminent domain element to the story, which I enjoyed even more because of my husband’s legal practice focusing on that niche. As long as you go into this knowing that we are following Annie’s life and aren’t expecting deeper backstories for the other characters, you’ll enjoy this! Thank you @stmartinspress for the Advanced Readers Edition and @netgalley & #stmartinspress for the digital arc as well! 3.75 rounded up!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue Em

    Totally evocative debut mystery -- its sense of place so revved up the dusty wind burns your eyes. After finishing college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small Texas town to regroup before deciding whether to go to law school and incur more student loan debt. Jobs don't come easy there, even with a degree and she ends up waitressing. When her co-worker ends up dead after a big bonfire party, Annie is compelled to search for the killer. Fueled by guilt of not giving her a ride home, the search fo Totally evocative debut mystery -- its sense of place so revved up the dusty wind burns your eyes. After finishing college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small Texas town to regroup before deciding whether to go to law school and incur more student loan debt. Jobs don't come easy there, even with a degree and she ends up waitressing. When her co-worker ends up dead after a big bonfire party, Annie is compelled to search for the killer. Fueled by guilt of not giving her a ride home, the search forces Annie to face some past incidents she had tried to suppress. An original take on an origin story of a private investigator. Highly recommended! Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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