Arkansas Special Agents [Book Series]
Arkansas Special Agents is a three-book series written by Maggie Wells (pen name for Margaret Ethridge) and published by Harlequin in May–July 2023 under the Harlequin Intrigue imprint, which offers a fusion of the thriller and traditional romance genres. The books feature the Arkansas State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and take place in northwestern Arkansas, highlighting the growing divide between rich and poor and the corruption bred by a tremendous influx of wealth into the region.
The first book in the series, Ozarks Missing Person, opens with Mallory Murray riding in a speedboat on Table Rock Lake with Tyrone (Trey) Powers III and his friends. Trey is an Ivy League–educated lawyer at the firm of Powers, Powers & Walton (PP&W); his family is immensely influential in the region, his grandfather having built his wealth, in part, by serving as “the personal attorney for a childhood pal who had a hankering to expand his local five-and-dime into a nationwide discount chain” (that is, Sam Walton). Mallory is a waitress at Stubby’s Bar and Grill on U.S. Highway 62 and has, just before the novel opens, informed Trey that she is pregnant with their child. She expects that he will agree to marry her, but instead he murders her in the boat and dumps her body into the lake.
After Mallory is reported missing, the case is assigned to Grace Reed, a special agent of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division (CID), based out of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). She connects with Mallory’s estranged brother, Matthew, an assistant district attorney in Bentonville (Benton County). Mallory’s body is soon found washed ashore at Table Rock Lake, and suspicions point toward Trey, as it was known she was with him at a crawfish boil on the lake that night—but then Mallory’s car is found in Beaver Lake.
Grace manages to get access to the social media account of Taylor Greene, a young lawyer for PP&W who, as they discover, has been having an affair with Matthew’s boss, prosecuting attorney Nate Able, both of whom were present the night Mallory was murdered. After assembling enough evidence, Grace is able to arrest Trey and several of his fellow lawyers, as well as Nate, who was later revealed to have participated in the dumping of Mallory’s car. The book ends with Matthew and Grace confessing an attraction to each other and having burgers at Stubby’s after the burial of Mallory’s ashes. At Stubby’s, Grace finds Mallory’s second pregnancy test in a bag with her driver’s license, hidden away in case anything should happen to her.
The second book, Ozarks Double Homicide, opens with the double murder of Trey and his father, Tyrone, current head of the family law firm. Circumstantial evidence points toward Tyrone’s second (and much younger) wife, Kayla Powers, and suspicions arise after a revised will emerges, giving her both her husband’s share of the firm and significant wealth and property. Kayla enlists PP&W’s top criminal defense attorney, Michelle Fraser, to represent her, but it turns out that Michelle is actually an undercover FBI agent investigating a shell company established by the firm that is funneling unreported contributions into a political action committee (PAC) supporting U.S. Senator William Powers, the younger brother of Tyrone. Michelle and Ethan Scott of the Arkansas State Police eventually arrest Harold Dennis, a partner in the firm, for various crimes, but the double murder remains unsolved.
At the beginning of the third book, Ozarks Witness Protection, which is set soon after the second, someone shoots Kayla Powers while she is checking the mail, wounding her arm. Kayla suspects Delray Powers, the son of Senator William Powers. While recovering in the hospital, she discovers that she is pregnant with the child of her late husband. Fearing for Kayla’s safety, Ethan Scott arranges for another State Police agent, Sergeant Ryan Hastings, to provide protection. However, it soon becomes clear that the perpetrator is able to follow their movements, as he leaves cryptic clues wherever they go. The ongoing investigation into the money laundering and murder turns up the fact that Harold Dennis, William Powers, and Delray Powers were all directly involved in a real estate scheme that earned the group federal and state housing subsidies. Kayla returns to the family house on Table Rock Lake, setting up a final confrontation with Delray, who admits that he was the person behind the murders but had intended Kayla, rather than Trey, to be the second victim. The authorities are able to arrest Delray, and, as the other two books ended, this one also ends with both male and female lead characters anticipating some kind of relationship together.
For additional information:
Lancaster, Guy. “Harlequin Heats up Arkansas with Thrillers Set in the Natural State.” Arkansas Times, August 12, 2023. https://arktimes.com/rock-candy/2023/08/12/harlequin-heats-up-arkansas-with-thrillers-set-in-the-natural-state (accessed September 15, 2023).
Maggie Wells–Margaret Ethridge. https://maggie-wells.com/ (accessed September 15, 2023).
Wells, Maggie. Ozarks Double Homicide. New York: Harlequin Intrigue, 2023.
———. Ozarks Missing Person. New York: Harlequin Intrigue, 2023.
———. Ozarks Witness Protection. New York: Harlequin Intrigue, 2023.
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
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