REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
If you thought the first entry in Lauren Carr’s “Lovers in Crime” series, “Dead on Ice”, was full of twists and turns and plot complications (my review: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/49692) I have to say you ain’t seen nothing’ yet when you pick up the second entry, “Real Murder” (Acorn Book Services, 302 pages, trade paperback, $12.95; available from Amazon.com and other online sources; also available in a Kindle eBook edition).
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.
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Joshua Thornton is the prosecuting attorney of Hancock County, West Virginia, the northernmost county of the state, wedged in between Ohio on the west and Pennsylvania on the east. He’s a widower, with one son at home, Donny. He’s now married to Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Thornton.
As the novel opens they’ve been married 45 days. This is completely copacetic with sixteen-year-old Donny, but not so much with Joshua’s twenty-something daughter Tracy, who’s home for the summer from her studies at the C.I.A. No, not the spy shop in suburban Virginia; the Culinary Institute of America in New York City. She’s a gourmet chef who is unhappy with her dad’s decision to marry the attractive Cameron, whose husband was killed in what seems to be a hit and run accident. The tension between Tracy and Cameron is palpable.
On medical leave from her job after injuries suffered in a spectacular successful capture of a murder suspect, Cameron is intrigued by Dolly Houseman, the little old lady who lives across the street from Joshua’s and Cameron’s house in Chester.
Dolly wants Cameron to investigate the death of one of her “girls.” Cameron has been warned about the apparently senile blue-haired old lady, but she persists; if there’s one thing about Cameron, it’s her persistence!
As is the case with all of Lauren Carr’s mysteries, I don’t want to spoil the book for readers by divulging the spoilers; there are so many in this book that it would be a shame to ruin the book for fans of Carr’s books — and I’m at the top of that list.
When the squad car of Josh Thornton’s boyhood friend, Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Gardner, is hauled out of a lake, with Mike in it, the past becomes personal. Was Gardner’s death an accident or was he murdered? Complicating factors include Mike’s son Hunter, who’s training to become a police officer. Hunter and Tracy are an item: Their casual dating has become serious and they’re engaged to be married at the end of the book.
Carr presents us with a cast of characters (yes, there’s a front-of-the book list) that would be worthy of a much longer book. Take Congresswoman Rachel Hilliard, who was elected to her office after her husband, Congressman Roderick Hilliard, died in the mysterious crash of his private plane. It happened on a Friday the Thirteenth, as did many of the other deaths in “Real Murder.” What was her relationship with Dolly Houseman and does she have a past she’s trying to conceal?
Humor abounds in “Real Murder,” and the tension between Cameron and Tracy adds an extra dimension to the novel. Fans of Lauren Carr’s Mac Faraday series will find the second entry of her “Lovers in Crime” series a welcome addition to the rapidly expanding Carr mystery canon. Look for Volume 3 of the series, “Til Murder Do We Part” in June 2015.
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. A best-selling mystery author on Amazon, Lauren created the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which take place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. “It’s Murder, My Son”, “Old Loves Die Hard”, and “Shades of Murder”, “Blast from the Past” , “The Murders at Astaire Castle”, “The Lady Who Cried Murder”, and “Twelve to Murder” have been receiving raves from readers and reviewers. Lauren is also the author of the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which is located in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, where she grew up. “Dead on Ice” features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates. The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also an independent publisher of both ebook and print books, spanning several genres, both fiction and non-fiction. A popular speaker, Lauren is frequently asked for advice about how to succeed as an author while running a business, cooking dinner, feeding dogs, and doing laundry. Authors in Bathrobes tells budding writers the truth about what it takes to be a successful writer today: determination, hard work, a dependable laptop, a full pot of coffee, comfy slippers, and a durable bathrobe. She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Her website: http://www.acornbookservices.com