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by Claire Daniels
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0425201589

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this third entry in the Karma Crime series, our heroine, Cally Lazar, is part of an intensive class for new age healers sponsored by Dr Aurora Hart. The good doctor is as abrasive as she is famous; there isn't a member of the group that she isn't picking on for being too fat, too bossy, too uncommitted, or too clueless. Add such nastiness to Hart's complicated electrical aura projector and the mystery soon kicks off with a crispy character.

Although Hart was electrocuted in the middle of a speech to 200 people, suspicion lies on the members of the intensive. Who had the motive to meddle with the aura maker? Dr Hart's embezzling, drug-addicted assistant? The unbalanced man who loved her? The woman afraid that Hart would steal her invention? Or perhaps anyone who had simply had enough of the doctor's verbal abuse?

Unfortunately, early in the book I was distracted by a different mystery -- who would give a gun and a badge to the addled, paranoid Chief Phlug? Daniels seems to be setting him up as the bad cop to another's good cop, but just about every action Phlug takes has class action harassment and police brutality suit written all over it.

Many cozy authors choose to deal with the problem of the police by making law enforcement incompetent or crooked, but this is the first time I've seen the problem solved with a certifiably crazy cop. Phlug draws his gun on an auditorium full of confused, upset people and threatens all 200 of them because of a few shouted questions as they sat. He wildly accuses everyone at the camp of the murder. The owners of the retreat state how he has denigrated both their race and profession and confess that they are terrified he will harass them out of business. Later he bursts into hotel rooms for impromptu interrogations and threatens to arrest everyone in the seminar simply for being new age healers.

Although some characters try to blow it off as 'just his way,' and say he's a good cop, Phlug finally goes so far as to threaten to arrest Cally for asking him a question in a manner he considers disrespectful -- a threat he makes with his hand on his gun, frightening not only Cally, but also his own wife. "Suddenly, I realized . . . DiMarco couldn't control her husband's anger . . . She was warning me to do the right thing." This is the sort of person who becomes Chief of Police?

With that ticking time bomb in the plot, it was hard to concentrate on the real story. But if Phlug is off his rocker, he's in good company. Sara staggers around in a drug-like stupor much of the time, and Craig keeps insisting that he sees Dr Hart's spirit everywhere -- to the point where he almost crushes Cally in a bearhug so that he can hold Dr Hart one more time.

With this much derangement flying around, not a lot of healing is being done this healing weekend. Cally uses her abilities to read an aura or two, but neither her power, nor those of the other healers particularly advance the plot. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL INTUITION can be read out of order for those who want to join in this series, but be prepared to be distracted by policemen who think they're in a Lethal Weapon movie.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, March 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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