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by Carolyn Mulford
Five Star, December 2014
ISBN: 1432829904

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Phoenix Smith and her pal Annalynn Keyser are lurking in a cemetery on a very muggy Missouri evening; one would think two women would have something better to do. Annalynn is the Acting Sheriff after the death of her husband, and the duo wants to know who has been vandalizing the cemetery. They get called out to help at the scene where some bank robbers holed up in an abandoned farmhouse. There is a shoot-out and at least one of the robbers escapes. The gold is nowhere to be found.

Of course (this is fiction, after all), the FBI thinks Phoenix either has the gold or knows where it is. The remaining robbers have the same feeling. Phoenix isn't about to reveal her past just to get off this particular hook, so she and Annalynn begin their own hunt for the robbers. At least one of the gang knows where Phoenix is; there are attempts on her life. Some of them are fairly sophisticated, given who the robber is, and some are not. What does this mean?

Annalynn has always meddled in Phoenix's life and now is no exception. Phoenix is setting up a non-profit; Annalynn finds a lawyer to help with this process. He just happens to be Phoenix's ex-husband. Connie, the third member of this long-standing trio, seems to take turns aiding and abetting Annalynn, then Phoenix; who doesn't have a friend like this?

There are several sub-plots to hold the reader's attention; this is one of the hallmarks of a seasoned mystery writer. Nobody's life has only one thing going on in it at any given time. People in mystery novels need to have more in their life than a mystery to solve. Mulford manages to give all three women something, or some things, to deal with. The setting is rural Missouri, although any rural community would probably work just as well. There is enough back story to move the reader along, and yet not quite enough - this makes most readers want to go back and read the first two in the series. One thing that was a surprise: all these women grew up around in the neighborhood and there is a surprising amount of local gossip they don't know, or don't know how to tap into. Since some of this gossip is quite relevant, Mulford should have dealt with this issue a little better. Other than that minor flaw, Mulford writes a very competent mystery novel.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, January 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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