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ON SPINE OF DEATH
by Tamara Berry
Poisoned Pen, November 2022
408 pages
$8.99
ISBN: 1728248639


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Zip-tied to a chair in a darkened basement, Tess Harrow checks to ensure her character can escape. Unfortunately, just as she loosens the ties, the basement ceiling collapses, showering Tess with skeletal remains. Things get worse when Tess realizes that the skeleton comes from the floor crawl space of her grandfather's store that she is renovating.

When her contractor quits, more of the floor collapses as he stomps out, and Tess finds another skeleton. Speculation arises about her grandfather being a serial killer. Then Tess calls on Peter Oblonsky, a writer whose research on methods of murder is published in Forensic Magazine. Sheriff Boyd and Coroner Sylvia Nerudo respect Dr. Oblonsky and are eager for his consultation on the mysterious skeletons.

Then Peter recommends a book, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, to Tess that offers uncanny and accurate details of the two murders precisely the condition of the skeletal remains, which have around thirty hatchet marks on each set of bones. Adding to the mystery, someone steals the bones, and folks suspect Tess since the skeletons were found in her grandfather's store.

Tamara Berry devises a wily mystery with red herrings, twists, and fascinating surprises. Berry portrays Tess as somewhat intense with humorous and redeeming characteristics. The author's ability to create various subplots that she weaves together so dramatically makes the second story in her By the Book series thrilling. While the outcome is unexpected, Berry ties it together quite nicely and delivers the story at a suspenseful pace.

Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton's, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, November 2022

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