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A BED OF SCORPIONS
by Judith Flanders
Thomas Dunne Books, March 2016
310 pages
$24.99
ISBN: 1250056462


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Since her first foray into British crime fiction, A MURDER OF MAGPIES , Judith Flanders has greatly improved. In A BED OF SCORPIONS, her plotting now lives up to her wit, her believable, engaging characters and her biting social comment. Her protagonist, book editor Samantha Clair, is witty, clever and daring as she tries to unravel the tangled threads of this compelling plot. She is a reliable narrator whose view of the world enlivens and informs.

Just as she is leaving her office to meet her old friend (and ex-boyfriend) Aidan Merriam for lunch, Sam learns that Aidan's business partner Frank has been found dead in their art gallery with a gun in his hand. Aidan, in fact, found him. Aidan asks for Sam's help in trying to discover how this could have happened and why. The investigator assigned to the case is Sam's boyfriend, Inspector Jake Field. Their richly observed relationship is new enough that it could bend either way.

Also involved is Sam's extraordinary mother Helena who is Aidan's solicitor. The relationship between mother and daughter is fraught and easily relatable. As Sam says, "If I didn't love Helena, I would have learned to dislike her a long time ago. She seems to do everything perfectly, with no effort."

Numerous characters provide constant interest. Sam's upstairs neighbor, Mr Rudiger, features repeatedly and adds another layer of interest to Sam's world.

Sam herself becomes a victim when the bicycle she's riding is involved in a hit and run. Accident? Or malice? She must investigate that as well as the suspicious death of the gallery's art restorer. Her loyalty to Aidan remains a top priority. Flanders invites readers into the art world from the administrative details through mounting a major retrospective show. Fascinating!

Flanders offers further insights into the world of publishing through Samantha's eyes. Sam is always responsible for doing her job even as she is drawn deeply into the investigations. When writing about the publishing world, Judith Flanders speaks the heartfelt truth. "…books are magic. A book works if it means something to the reader. It doesn't matter if what it means to the reader isn't what the author intended. If it speaks to the reader, then it works; if it doesn't, it's dead."

A BED OF SCORPIONS is very much alive.

§ Deb Shoss is a retired theatre producer/director, avid reader and former bookseller living in Sarasota FL.

Reviewed by Deb Schoss, March 2016

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