Sunday, January 29, 2017

Judith Flanders
St. Martins Minotaur
February 21, 2017

Our solitary and self-sufficient 40-something London book editor, Sam Clair, has seen a lot of changes in her life since we first met her in A Murder of Magpies. She has formed a supportive relationship with her reclusive upstairs neighbor, Mr. Rudiger, gotten closer to her other neighbors, the Lewises and their son Bim, and made other friends in her North London neighborhood. She has also acquired a part-time live-in, Jake Field, a London Police Detective. Sam has never enjoyed the endless meetings, schmoozing, and socializing that are so much a part of the publishing world but has learned to function well in it. Jake calls it "after-work work" which Sam views with an acid tongue and jaundiced eye. 

Sam has been a reluctant and fearful sleuth on previous occasions and she hopes that is behind her. Jake, understandably, views her meddling in police work unfavorably and is concerned for her safety. However, her new friend, Viv, gets her involved in a mystery. The elderly Viv, who knows everyone and everything about them is concerned that her upstairs neighbor, Dennis Harefield, has not been seen for several days. Dennis is an apparently blameless council employee but he has also not shown up at work. Viv does all the usual things, calls the hospitals and the police who are not particularly in interested. Dennis, after all, is a grown man in his forties. She persuades Sam to help her do a spot of breaking and entering at Dennis' flat. Nothing seems amiss other than general untidiness and no sign that he might have gone on a trip. It is a dead end until there is a fire in an empty house nearby and the body of Dennis Harefield is found in the wreckage. It appears that he was the arsonist and this is the most recent in a string of local fires. Upon searching Harefield's apartment, the police find a substantial amount of cash, leading them to suspect drug dealing. The problem is, there was no money there when Viv and Sam searched. Sam's questions about Dennis Harefield lead her into great danger. Someone is prepared to kill her to stop her.

I highly recommend the Sam Clair mysteries. Sam is very likable, with her often laugh-out-loud take on publishing, management consultants, and life in general. After a lifetime of stubborn self-sufficiency, she has gathered a group of loyal supporters headed by her terrifyingly efficient mother, Helena, and Jake. She adds more people to her circle with Sam, a street kid whom she befriends, and the squatters who were living in the supposedly empty house where Dennis Harefield's body is discovered. My only quibble is her rather drawn out and somewhat unbelievable escape from thugs intent on killing her. Sam is far from athletic, in spite of bicycling on her errands, but "needs must" I suppose. Sam Clair is a character I would love to meet in real life.

Thanks so much to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4.5 Stars

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