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by Charlaine Harris
Minotaur, October 2016
240 pages
ISBN: 1250090032

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Aurora's life is going so well: new marriage to a successful writer, baby on the way, younger brother ensconced in the spare room and integrating well to his new life, job as good as ever. So many blessings - although morning sickness is definitely in the "mixed" category with respect to blessings. Then Phillip (her brother, as opposed to her father, Phil, who is an idiot) disappears. No clue as to why or where - just vanished, along with several of his friends. Everyone is frantic. One of the missing children is only eleven years old and has a serious crush on Phillip. Is this fact relevant?

Then a ransom note is received - but only by one set of parents. They appear to pay it (although Aurora and her husband Robin have their doubts) and yet their son is not released. His girlfriend commits suicide. The pressure on everyone mounts. To make Aurora's life just a little more difficult, her father comes to town and blames her for Phillip's disappearance. Never mind that the reason Phillip hitch-hiked across country to Aurora's house had to do with Phil's flagrant disregard for his marital vows or with his total lack of concern for his current wife's whereabouts. When his current wife shows up, nothing gets easier for anyone. Families can be SO much fun.

As Robin and Aurora do their own detecting (he's a crime writer and she has experience) they begin to come to some realizations about the kids in their small town, and the kinds of forces working in this particular crime. There are very topical issues that surface, and very human reactions to those issues. One of Harris's strengths as a writer is her ability to make her characters all too human, both in their positive and negative aspects.

This is the ninth in the Aurora Teagarden series, and fans will say it's been a long time coming. It's well worth the wait. Harris manages to take a fairly formulaic genre (cozy mystery) and make it relevant and personal as well as very readable. She is a skilled and capable writer, one of the best around.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, November 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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