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by Margaret Maron
Grand Central, July 2017
320 pages
ISBN: 1455567353

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Margaret Maron is a superb author, dedicated to her craft, which is why, perhaps, I found this last of the Sigrid Harald series to be so puzzling. Oh, not the mystery, although that is has as good a puzzle plot and as strongly developed characters as usual. It's that the main feeling I had when finishing the story was that Maron was oh-so-glad finally to be finished with Sigrid! As if it were like pulling teeth for her to write this, a feeling I have never had before throughout the long series. It felt like a "duty book," to reward her fans. She ought to have stopped with THREE DAY TOWN (2011) - that book was hugely entertaining, a happy, strong mystery with much gentle tweaking of old-fashioned murder mystery writing styles, a sense of fun and a goodly amount of entertainment. This is mainly sad, the nearest Maron has come to formulaic in the long Sigrid Harald series.

Don't get me wrong: the plotting is very good here, with its interweaving threads of an investigation into the deaths of homeless men and their connections to once-famous celebrities (an opera singer a la Callas, a Mafioso's wife and family), and neighborhood gentrification, mixed with the ongoing saga of Sigrid's life with, and now without, Oscar Neumann. Parallels are drawn betwixt and between them all very gently and carefully, the murder mystery spools out nicely paced and twisted, and it is entertaining. And the effort to insert more information regarding Sigrid's relationship with Oscar and his past life was beautifully done, very subtle and emotive; as a long-time fan of Sigrid I did appreciate hearing more before she closes the series down completely.

But this book is awkward. If it had been published before THREE DAY TOWN (sequentially TAKE OUT falls between that and FUGITIVE COLORS (1995), then this entry in the series would have seemed quite good, and TOWN then a fitting finale. TOWN was much better, fresher, happier, a good way to end. TAKE OUT felt tired, and I was quite disappointed in the last few pages. I've loved Sigrid for decades (since the mid-1980s). She's one of my all-time favorites. I had said good-bye to her at the end of THREE DAY TOWN; this was just extraneous. And sad.

Abbey Hamilton loves New England, her cats, yarn, and old-fashioned murder mysteries, and isn't shy about offering her opinions, usually at great length.

Reviewed by Abbey Hamilton, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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