- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
If West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle is the state’s finger to everybody trashing the Mountain State, Hancock County is the fingernail. The state’s northernmost county, along with adjacent parts of Ohio to the west and Pennsylvania to the east, is the setting for Lauren Carr’s “Dead on Ice” (Acorn Book Services, available on Amazon and other online sites, quality paperback, eBook available, 234 pages, $14.99 for print version, $2.99 eBook) the first installment in the author’s new series Lovers in Crime featuring Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates.
Cameron Gates is assigned to solve the murder of Cherry Pickens, a legendary star of “artistic” and pornographic films, whose body turns up in an abandoned freezer. The case has a personal connection to her lover, Joshua Thornton, because the freezer was located in the basement of his late cousin, criminal defense lawyer and world class hoarder Albert Gordon, who lived on a farm in Hookstown, PA. Like the famous Collyer brothers of New York City, Gordon was an apparent victim of his hoarding disorder.
It doesn’t take long for their investigation to reveal that the risqué star’s roots were buried in their rural Ohio Valley community, something that Cherry had kept off her show business résumé. Born Cheryl Smith, she may have had a role in the death of Angie Sullivan, who disappeared in 1978. Cheryl/Cherry should have kept her hometown off her road map, too — because when she came running home from the mob, it proved to be a fatal homecoming.
There are so many characters and red herrings in this artfully plotted comic mystery that I’m grateful that Carr has included a cast of characters in the front of the book. I had to refer to this list frequently as I read this page-turner, to make sure I had the right character. Every mystery and thriller that I’ve come across could benefit from a cast of characters.
Joshua and Cameron met for the first time in Carr’s “Shades of Murder” which I reviewed earlier this year (Link:http://www.huntingtonnews.net/34072). It was love at first sight for the widower with five kids and the childless widow. Even though they’re not married — yet — their banter reminds me of the famous “Thin Man” couple created by Dashiell Hammett, Nick and Nora Charles. There’s even a counterpart to the Charles’s dog Asta, in Admiral, an Irish Wolfhound/Great Dane mix who owns Joshua. Cameron has Irving, a Maine Coon cat with the coloring of a skunk, a gigantic cat who can’t stand to be apart from Cameron — and who is no friend of Joshua.
If you’re looking for a mystery with an abundance of comedy, “Dead on Ice” will more than meet your expectations. I’ve come to expect great characters and intricate plotting from Lauren Carr, and “Dead on Ice” is up to her lofty standards.
About the Author
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which take place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren Carr is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services. Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at: E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website:http://acornbookservices.com/ http://mysterylady.net/ Blog: Literary Wealth:http://literarywealth.wordpress.com/ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991 Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie. Lauren Carr and her husband live in Harpers Ferry, WV, in the Mountain State’s other — Eastern — panhandle. No other state can boast two distinct panhandles!