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by Elena Hartwell
Camel Press, April 2017
286 pages
ISBN: 1603813136

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

No longer entirely on her own, private detective Eddie Shoes is sharing her home in Bellingham, Washington with her mother Chava who is temporarily between places to gamble for reasons mostly left unsaid, and an enormous dog named Franklin who may be her closest friend. Left behind are Eddie's unhappy childhood in Spokane and all of the relationships she had there, her long absent Mexican father, and a pretty terrific lover she abandoned when things went sour in her early career in Seattle and she fled to her present location.

Somehow the lover, a homicide detective named Chance Parker, has gotten an assignment in Bellingham and they have made tentative contact again. Although her new life is reasonably ordered and stable, Eddie is still more fragile than not and a phone call from the woman who was her best friend through school in Spokane is not very welcome. Dakota has somehow tracked down Eddie and managed to land herself in the Bellingham jail and concluded that Eddie will save her. Nothing Eddie quickly learns about Dakota's life since they last saw each other makes her want to have anything to do with the woman Dakota has served a term in prison ("unjustly"), has a spooky stalker, and is at least being "framed" now for something else she claims she didn't do. However, old relationships have long tentacles and Eddie is guilted into posting a $1,000.00 bond to get Dakota out of jail and promising to look into the stalker situation for her.

The little business next door to Eddie's office, a tarot card reading establishment which is probably a house of prostitution, is where Dakota claims to have landed a temporary job while waiting for her fabulous position as a tv personality to open up. Unfortunately, the next time Eddie heads to her office, that business is deserted except for a gruesome dead body collecting flies. Ex-lover Parker is the police investigator and one of Eddie's former business cards is found on the body.

In fact, these cards apparently fished out of the dumpster out back start showing up at all kinds of unpleasant scenes and Eddie finds herself on the verge of being a prime suspect. Dakota lies and lies to her and then disappears entirely and while Eddie works at helping out the police department, she also does a ton of her own sleuthing in order to get herself off the hook.

Chava, the mother, is a hoot and Franklin is about as loyal and intelligent as a big dog can be. Chance, the now maybe lover, is attractive and the mystery is indeed mysterious pretty much up until the end.

There are enough quirks in the characters and twists in the development of the story to keep things satisfyingly interesting all the way through. Elena Hartwell has conjured up a plausible protagonist and done a good job of plunking her into a setting and plot that nicely suit her.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, March 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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