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A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE
by Christi Daugherty
Minotaur, March 2019
368 pages
$26.99
ISBN: 1250148871


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When a young law student is murdered on a normally well-populated street in downtown Savannah, reporter Harper McClain takes more of an interest than usual. She knows Naomi Scott. Oh, they aren't best friends or anything like that, and still Harper wants to see justice done. She doesn't want Naomi to become just another page six murder that doesn't ever get solved. The suspects are all suspects for a reason: one is the boyfriend, one is the boss who has a history with at least one previous employee, and one is a former boyfriend with some major political clout. The police are betting on the current boyfriend; he swears he loved Naomi. The boss, owner of the bar where Harper hangs out and Naomi worked, is drinking himself into oblivion after Naomi's death. The old boyfriend has a solid alibi.

The policeman working the case is a old lover of Harper's, one who didn't work out well. Her interactions with him while they are both looking for Naomi's killer give new meaning to the words "mixed signals." All the while, someone seems to be stalking Harper. Is it Luke Walker, the cop? Is it somebody else from her past? Does it have something to do with the murder of her mother, so many years ago? Throw into the mix the almost certainty of major lay-offs at the newspaper, compounded by the political machinations set off by Harper's determination to look into the background of the old boyfriend with the alibi. And the police are not on Harper's side; her last investigation got one of their own sent to prison on a murder charge. Harper's life is complicated on many levels as a result of this superb professional reporting.

Bottom line? Daugherty writes a compelling novel about a very current social issue: domestic violence and the difficulty society has in dealing with it, both in the specific and the general. She makes the reader care about Naomi, and about the people around her. The complications in Harper's life move the story along and, at the same time, give Harper a back-story that is believable and compelling. There are enough threads left hanging for at least one more book, and quite possibly more than that. Having said that, nothing in this book is truly memorable. A week after reading it, I had to look at the blurb on the back to remind myself about what happened. I have no desire to go back and read the first book (THE ECHO KILLING) and no compulsion to read the next book. Maybe that's just me, in a mid-winter funk of too much snow and cold. I had no trouble while I was reading the book; I didn't have to force myself to finish it. I'm just not over the moon about it. Your mileage may vary.

I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martins Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, March 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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