In THE STORIES YOU TELL, Kristen Lepionka continues the adventures and evolution of Columbus Ohio’s own Roxane (with one N) Weary. Originally debuting in 2017’s THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK, Roxane Weary has been through hell and back. Through it all, she has battled depression, relationship issues, family grief and in-fighting, and the bottle. While it would be understandable if Weary continued to exist in a state of arrested development as the bitter, angry, bourbon swilling private eye, Lepionka has taken Weary and the reader on a journey of growth and development.

When we meet Roxane now, life seem to be settling into a nice rhythm: Roxane and her fickle on-again-off-again girlfriend Catherine have decided to make a go of it, and Roxane is starting to let herself be happy. She’s also made an attempt to keep the bottle at arm’s length. For the most part. As winter descends on Ohio, the only challenge Roxane has to face is the upcoming anniversary of her police officer father’s death. It’s when you seem to have your ducks in a row that life surprises you. Roxane receives a late-night emergency call from her marijuana dealing brother Andrew. Out of all of the Weary siblings, Roxane and Andrew were always the closest, so she is always the first call in an emergency. Andrew had been home alone when a jilted old girlfriend had showed up at his apartment in a panic. After making a brief call, she runs from Andrew’s apartment and promptly disappears. Andrew is the last person to have seen the missing girl, and when the police show up, they find a duffle bag of weed in his apartment. Andrew is promptly put behind bars since this is a clear violation of his parole. The root of the mystery seems to center on a new dating app called BusPass (for Columbus, of course) and a couple of middle-class suburban women who are friends with the missing woman. How these pieces fit together, and what it all has to do with the mysterious closure of a local nightclub and a dead ex-policeman remains to be seen. Catherine is called away to Rhode Island, and the family member she relies on most is now behind bars. As the stakes continue to rise, Roxane’s support network starts to crumble. More and more, Roxane begins to see the difference between who we are in public, and how little that persona has to do with who we really are inside.

It’s this brutal dichotomy that Roxane must come to terms with in THE STORIES YOU TELL.

First time readers of the series won’t have a problem jumping in with this instalment, but some of the plot points may be more satisfying for those who start at the first book. Over the course of three thrilling novels, Lepionka has created one of the richest protagonists in crime fiction. Roxane Weary continues to grow, change, and evolve, just like her beloved Short North neighborhood that she calls home.

Dan Malmon