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by Liz Evans
Orion, August 2002
344 pages
ISBN: 0752836951

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Grace Smith is England's version of the modern female private investigator. Comparing her to America's Janet Evanovich is a crime, as I believe Liz Evans has created a stronger, much more realized private investigator.

When Grace is asked to look into the death of Marilyn Monroe, she has dreams of sunny California, flashy lifestyle, looking into a strong mystery. However, Marilyn Monroe turns out to be a male donkey, who has had his throat slit. This does not sit well with Grace, but being in dire straits financially, she accepts the case.

The police refuse to help her. Marilyn's owner, December Dalrymple, believes there is something wrong in the way Marilyn was killed, as a characteristic of donkeys, they usually don't leave with strangers, and Marilyn was found several miles away in an abandoned factory.

The more Grace probes, the deeper the mystery becomes as a decades old robbery appears to be the motive behind the murder of a prostitute, who died on the same night that Marilyn did. Grace does not believe in this coincidence, and digs even more. As the investigation continues, Grace realizes that Des Parker, a victim from the robbery, who had recently died and left his wife Judy a widow, was part of the original robbery. Another player, Alan Kersey, the mastermind behind the robbery, who recently was released from prison, met with the other participants of the robbery, except Judy, who sent her daughter, Tina, instead, and gave each a replica of the steering wheel lock which would lead to a hidden treasure.

When another of the robbery participants is mugged, Grace realizes that she has to solve this murder in order to get the treasure. As the clues start to come together, more bodies start to pile, and in a final denouement, inside the stables where Marilyn Monroe lived, all the pieces start to fall into place.

I didn't rate this an A, as the plot was somewhat thin, but then for a first novel it held together real well. This is a book strong on characters, all eccentric, with some touches of humanity. The humor is somewhat self-deprecating in Grace's thinking, but also there is a gallows view that shows up at the oddest times. I much prefer reading Liz Evans to Janet Evanovich, and any comparisons that are made should be in favor of Ms. Evans.

Reviewed by Steven M. Sill, November 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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