Bitch Factor

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Chris Roger’s BITCH FACTOR is her first novel about Dixie Flannigan, a former Houston District Attorney turned bounty hunter.

Before his trial for killing eleven-year-old Betsy Keyes when he was drunk, Parker Dann jumps bail. His lawyer, Belle Richards, hires Dixie to bring him back. Dixie tracks him to North Dakota, and on the way back to Houston, she finds him helpful in making it through a blizzard. She begins to trust him, but not enough to remove his handcuffs.

Dann insists he has no memory of the crime, though it was his car that ran over the girl and he lives in her neighborhood. Enough loose ends about the case move Dixie to put Dann up in her house. Leaving her dog Mud to guard him, she begins to investigate the case on her own.

She knows by then that Betsy’s younger sister Courtney drowned in a summer camp several months after Betsy’s death. Dixie suspects murder. Did Jon Keyes, the girls’ stepfather, sexually abuse them and kill them to keep it secret? Did Travis Payne, their other stepfather, kill them for the insurance, which he used to support his hardware store?

Dixie also discovers that Parker Dann is rich, though he is a salesman and lives abstemiously. He voluntarily pays child support for a son by a woman he has not seen in years, and sends money to his mother in Montana as well.

Moreover, Dann has become attractive to Dixie. He even cooks meals for her while he’s a prisoner in her house. Is he worth her feelings, or is he deceiving her?

Before Dixie can answer all these questions, she is beaten up after helping a detective friend of hers close a case in exchange for information about her own. When she finally pinpoints the killer in time to save Ellie, the youngest and last girl in the Payne family, she is again injured.

If Dixie is part of the “bitch factor” in the novel’s title, she has good reason to be, having been raped by one of her mother’s lovers when she was a child, and having seen many criminals go free when she was a D.A. But she is warm to her sister Amy and Amy’s family, and to anyone she trusts, and she is extremely smart. It is impossible not to like this character.