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by Libby Fischer Hellman
Berkley, September 2005
319 pages
ISBN: 0425203107

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ellie Foreman is on her way home from a video shoot when she pulls in to a rest stop to get a drink. She gets chatting to a woman who's been stranded there. Minutes later, the woman is dead in a drive-by shooting.

It's a great start to a novel, but sadly A SHOT TO DIE FOR never quite lives up to this early promise. It's a meandering sort of book where Ellie's tangled private life pushes what could be an intriguing mystery into the background.

I'm willing to accept that part of the problem I had with the book was that I was arriving, puffing and blowing, partway through an existing series -- A SHOT TO DIE FOR is the fourth starring video producer Ellie.

Your view, though, may depend, on whether you can tolerate an overload of private lives in your crime fiction -- and generally I can live without it. You get plenty of that in A SHOT TO DIE FOR with Ellie's relationship with (deep breath) her teenage daughter, her father, her ex-husband, his new girlfriend and the various men vying for her affections.

To be honest, the latter was what I found the most tedious in the book -- Ellie moons around the place like a lovelorn teenager. It doesn't help that the love interest is a bit short on characterisation in both cases.

Amateur sleuths aren't my favourite side of the genre either, mainly because I take a lot of convincing on whether they should be sticking their nose into things. Ellie gets very irate when she's kept out of the loop, admitting in the next breath that actually, it isn't really her business.

The plot is serviceable enough, as Ellie and the police attempt to find out what happened to Daria Flynn, the victim of the shooting. It's the classic closed community, focussing as it does on a Lake Geneva resort with family secrets harking back to the dark ages.

But when push came to shove, I didn't empathise with Ellie, was bored with her family hassles and wasn't all that fussed about the people in the village. Corporate video making isn't the most sexy of professions, so there wasn't much interest on that score. And in the end A SHOT TO DIE FOR was too sluggish to keep me hooked.

If you've enjoyed the series to date, you'll probably like A SHOT TO DIE FOR, as it's not a bad book. It just didn't press any of my buttons.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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