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by Carola Dunn
Minotaur Books, June 2010
352 pages
ISBN: 0312379463

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The elderly Eleanor Trewynn is made in the mold of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, but a bit more modern. She was a globe-trotter before her husband's death, practices the martial art of Aikido and drives a pea-green Morris Minor nicknamed "The Incorruptible." Like Miss Marple, she always seems to be in the right place at the right time close to the murder scene, that is.

In this, the second in Dunn's Cornish series, Eleanor finds herself defending her neighbor, painter Nick Gresham, accused of murder. Gresham has just returned from London and found all his paintings slashed. He rushes off to confront rival Geoffrey Clarke, with Eleanor (and her dog, Teazle) in tow. They find Clarke in his studio stabbed to death. Immediately, Geoffrey's lover, Stella Weller, accuses Nick of murder. Before the truth can come out, Nick finds himself spending a night in jail. Eleanor, stranded in a town not her own, is invited to spend the night at Upper Trewithen Farms, the artists' commune where Geoffrey lived. This is convenient, as it gives her an opportunity to snoop and find out who might have a motive for killing Geoffrey. It turns out most everyone has a motive.

Fortunately, Eleanor's niece, Det. Sgt. Megan Pencarrow and Megan's boss, Det. Insp. Scrumble, take over the case. As they've already worked a case with Eleanor (in the first book, MANNA FROM HADES), Megan and her boss don't seem to mind Aunt Nell's snooping too much. The characters in this book, which also include Eleanor's friend Jocelyn Stearn, a vicar's wife, are well-drawn. The fictional Cornish town of Port Mabyn is also vividly portrayed and the time period (sometime in the 1960s) adds interest to the story. But there's one big drawback to the story: the mystery itself.

The real killer is telegraphed very early into the story, and several times throughout, even as the author introduces other red-herring characters. This was a major flaw in the book, detracting from what could have been a well-written, entertaining story. Ultimately, without the whodunit element, the book was a disappointment.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, June 2010

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