Mystery Books for Sale

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by J. B. Stanley
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2006
224 pages
ISBN: 0425212645

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Molly Appleby is a young, single, professional woman. She is a writer for Collectorís Weekly, and her current assignment has her covering the taping of Hidden Treasures, an antiques show which will certainly remind readers of a current television favorite.

While in Richmond for the taping, Molly is torn between missing Mark Harrison and lusting after Garrett Huntington. Mark works with her and their schedules seem determined to interfere with their burgeoning romance. Garrett is visiting from the British production of Hidden Treasures; heís quite attractive and seems attracted to Molly.

The first thing that irritated me was the names of the appraisers on the show. ďFrank, who appraises furniture, Jessica who does jewelry, Borris is books, Alicia is the art matron, Clarke is china, Lindsey is linens, and Tony is the Toy Man.Ē Too cute. And could Molly Appleby be any more wholesome? Then the fact she spelled one of the two largest auction houses in America as Southeby's rather than Sotheby's pulled me right out of the story.

Moving along. The plot is good. Frank has lots of allergies, and one of them kills him. His wife, Victoria the hostess, is the obvious suspect but is easily cleared. The cast of appraisers seems to all get along, but there are some personality clashes that come to light as the story plays out. Then Alexandra, another visiting British star, is found dead; sheís hanging from a statue of Robert E. Lee, the general she criticized at dinner the night before. Divine retribution? Probably not.

Molly keeps poking around, and part of her obvious motivation (because we hear about it a lot) is her desire to write a story featuring herself as the star detective. The police are not as impressed with her abilities as she is, but she does eventually figure out who the bad guy is. Unfortunately, most astute readers of mystery fiction will be eight or ten chapters ahead of Molly.

I did get a little tired of hearing about the food, since this isnít a 'food' mystery, and how many times do we really need to read about Molly and her waistline vs. everyone around her and their slimmer physiques? The chapters, in italics, relating the history of an important clue (a lovely drop-front desk) are interesting but donít really further the plot.

A FATAL APPRAISAL isnít a bad mystery. Molly is charming, the plot is serviceable, and one can learn a few things about antiques. Itís just not wonderful. Iíd read more from Stanley but I wonít start collecting her.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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