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by Victoria Jenkins
The Permanent Press, October 2012
214 pages
ISBN: 1579622844

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Irene Chavez makes her first appearance as a rural detective in Puget Sound of Washington State in AN UNATTENDED DEATH. She is the first on the scene where wealthy psychiatrist Anne Paris' body has been found floating in the tidal marsh off the shore of a remote island. Anne's body was found after she had last been seen sailing in a major storm, but the fact that her body is several miles away from where the sailboat beached suggests to Irene that this "unattended death" may not have been an accident.

Jenkins is a wonderful writer, making the most of every single word in her descriptions. She paints brilliant landscape pictures as she writes about her characters' locations. In the course of her investigation, Irene travels from the crime scene in Washington to McLean Hospital in Boston, and the reader is carried right along with her as the landscape, temperature, and humidity change palpably.

The characterization in the book is equally well done. When Irene describes how she feels about Anne, the victim, ("It almost seems as if she could walk through the door at any moment…"), she could just as easily be describing the reader's feelings about the characters in the book. This is one book where it was not difficult to keep track of character names, since each individual was so well and uniquely developed. Rather than the sense of menace that pervades so many mysteries, Jenkins makes the mystery work by developing multi-dimensional characters. None seem totally evil while all have their flaws. There are no caricatures here, and the reader can find reasons to suspect many of the characters of murdering Anne (if indeed she has been murdered).

As the first in a series, this book does a good job of giving Irene a history that can carry forward into interesting future relationships with both her son and the men she meets during the course of this investigation. There is an aspect of romance to this book that is best seen in the author's generosity toward her characters, but there's also just the hint of a potential real romance to develop in future books.

This book (at 214 pages) is shorter than many current mysteries, but each word is so well chosen that the result is a very well-crafted and engaging mystery. I can't wait to read the second Irene Chavez mystery.

§ Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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