Appraise Her by Paula Priamos

Tia Drakos is a Los Angeles real estate appraiser who, once upon a time, worked with the police as a handwriting analyst. She’s initially surprised when an old friend, Elise Davis, contacts her about appraising the home Elise grew up in. As the daughter of Hollywood royalty Carson Davis, and a fairly successful businesswoman in her own right (if one who shies away from the spotlight herself,) Elise could hire anyone. Tia is flattered that their history together would cause Elise to trust her with this job.

She understands why, tho, the moment she heads up the mansion’s stairway and finds a comatose Carson in a hospital bed. The Davis family has cultivated an image of him as a larger than life persona, and the truth about his status as an invalid is something the whole family works hard to keep under wraps. From long experience, they know that Tia can keep a secret. And so she does, until she turns on the news a few days later and finds that Elise has seemingly been kidnapped from her own home.

At first, the cops aren’t sure if she’s been abducted or simply taken off for a few days, as no ransom demand has appeared. But then Tia starts getting weird notes herself, left under her welcome mat and her windshield wiper. Could these have anything to do with Elise’s disappearance? Or is someone trying to use her own history as a handwriting analyst to scare her?

As if all that isn’t bad enough, her amicable divorce from her ex-husband Kyle is starting to falter as he drags his feet over selling their last joint property. Meanwhile, her fiance Hugh is keeping secrets from her, as she stresses out over having a baby. Her emotions are already heightened even before it becomes clear that someone does indeed have sinister intentions towards her… and isn’t afraid to use violence to get what they want. Will Tia be able to figure out what’s going on and escape with her life and sanity intact?

Tia’s paranoia makes for several interesting twists and turns in this very modern thriller. Rooting for her can sometimes feel complicated, as she can be a difficult character to like. From her odd faith in the pseudoscience of graphology to her incredibly grating obsession with getting pregnant (and I’m sympathetic to her fears, as a woman who also had my kids in my mid-30s, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for her to treat her romantic partners as primarily baby-providers like some latter day Queen Henry VIII,) she can be an irrational bundle of self-centeredness.

She does, however, have her moments. I absolutely wanted her to succeed in her confrontation with an abusive ex-boyfriend, even if I do think that in the era of Supreme Court justices crying over how much they love beer, it’s more likely that her ex would have called her bluff rather than cave to her demands. Still, I’m glad it worked out and the mystery was solved, with a lot of interesting commentary on Los Angeles and the culture of wealth and glamour that is an inherent part of living in the area.

Appraise Her by Paula Priamos was published April 5 2022 by Power Punch Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including

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