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by Diane Kelly
St. Martin's Paperbacks, February 2023
292 pages
ISBN: 1250816068

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

House-flippers Whitney and Buck decide to try something new and buy an old houseboat, the Skinny Dipper, to renovate and sell. PRIMER AND PUNISHMENT is Diane Kelly's fifth cozy set in Nashville, Tennessee, with a different twist as the two cousins learn how to fix up a sea-going vessel.

Whit and Buck get to know their neighbor, Grant Hardisty, who lives on his boat in the adjacent slip at the marina. But, unfortunately, Grant is not well-liked, by either a series of ex-wives or folks he hits up for money. An insurance investigator is also surveilling him - he is not working due to a slip-and-fall injury at a local store while he waits for a settlement. So, Grant spends his time fishing, hanging out with his dog, and avoiding ex-wives and the guys looking to get their money back.

One day, while priming the houseboat, Whit and Buck narrowly escape an explosion that kills Grant and destroys his boat. With no shortage of suspects, Whit's boyfriend, Detective Collin Flynn, begins investigating the bombing with almost too many suspects to check out. Both Whit and Sawdust, the feline sleuth, also lend a hand. The primary suspects are a couple that used their $40,000 boat as collateral for a $10,000 loan from Gary, who was supposed to return the boat when they paid him back. But, he refused unless they came up with much more money to get it back. Things also become complicated when a couple of folks confess to the murder.

On the lighter side, Buck is getting married to Whit's friend Colette and the appropriate bachelor parties, for him and her, are being planned for the houseboat.

Since it's more accessible for their project, Buck and Whit spend their nights on the boat. Whit keeps Sawdust with her on the ship, and Sawdust develops a friendly relationship with Jojo, Grant's dog. Sawdust's description of his new friendship with Jojo is worth the read.

Kelly devises fascinating mysteries, fills them with well-developed characters, and delivers a comfortably paced story. Her creativity also provides a little intrigue from Whit's feline companion, Sawdust, who writes various chapters throughout the book sharing his observations and perceptions of all that's going on. Once again, Diane Kelly makes following Whit and Buck an entertaining read.

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, February 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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