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A CRYPTIC CLUE
by Victoria Gilbert
Crooked Lane Books, July 2023
320 pages
$29.99
ISBN: 1639102523


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Retired librarian Jane Hunter interviews for a position with Cameron Clewe, a book collector seeking an "archivist to his ever-expanding compendium of rare books and artifacts." To Jane's delight, her first assignment is "to uncover the secrets of Cam's latest acquisition a trove of items related to classic mystery and detective authors."

Victoria Gilbert's new series, Hunter and Clewe Mysteries, features 60-year-old Jane Hunter and 33-year-old Cam Clewe, who quickly become a sleuthing duo when Jane finds a dead body in Cam's mansion's library when she reports her first day of work. The murder victim is Cam's ex-girlfriend, Ashley Allen, a wealthy and not well-liked young woman. Guests observed Cam and Ashely arguing at a fundraiser just two days earlier, so Cam immediately becomes a person of interest.

Determined to find the killer, Cam enlists Jane's aid in collecting information to help build a suspect list. Ashely had a habit of promising to fund a project and withdrawing her financing when it was well underway. Examples of the pattern Jane found are Mateo Martin and Tristan Blair. Ashley pulled her financial support for Mateo's restaurant close to opening, and the move bankrupted Mateo. Ashley set up Tristan Blair in his music studio but dropped her financial support when she started dating Cam. Then out of the blue, Jane's daughter Bailey tells her mom about a hazing incident at her college years before, that involved Ashley in the death of a student when she was president of the Chi Omega Delta sorority chapter. Jane also has access to the retired newspaper reporter Vincent Fisher, her landlord and inquisitive man. Jane's list of potential persons of interest continues to expand.

While collecting information about the murder, Jane's access to materials in the attic gives her a unique perspective on Cam's history. Jane's newly-found background helps explain Cam's restrained social interaction and "rampant anxiety" while relying on his intelligence and deductive skills to solve any puzzle he encounters, including murder.

Ms. Gilbert creates a compelling debut for her new series with definitive characters and a well-constructed mystery. Jane and Cam offer a unique twosome to follow in future puzzles.

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, July 2023

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