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by Christi Daugherty
Minotaur, March 2019
336 pages
ISBN: 1250148871

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE by Christi Daugherty is the second in the Harper McClain series. Savannah crime journalist Harper McClain is called to the scene where a murdered young woman, Naomi Scott, was found in the middle of the most popular tourist district. With her newspaper suffering layoffs, she is under pressure to get a story out. As she writes, she discovers three suspects, each with a compelling motive.

First, there's the victim's boyfriend, a man with a criminal past claiming to be better. Then there is the victim's boss, a man who previously stalked another employee. Finally, there is the victim's ex, a man she dated until it ended badly, and he just happens to be the district attorney's son. However, each man claimed to love Naomi and would never hurt her. Between shifting stories and unknown alibis, Harper is losing more than leads.

The truth gets even more complicated as Harper deals with a disgruntled police force that feels betrayed by what Harper did in as laid out in the previous novel, THE ECHO KILLING. Harper has to resort to her own sources and investigations, all while dealing with her own stalker who may be connected to the murder of her mother when Harper was twelve. Ignoring his warnings, Harper finds herself having to cope with jealousy, obsession, and near-death experiences once again.

A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE is a tragically common tale of domestic abuse of women by the men they love. Daugherty writes a compelling crime novel with equally dramatic characters and motives. One aspect I enjoyed was how quickly the novel gets into the crime and characters without any exposition. Our first glimpse of Harper is a confident, hard-working, and caring individual, and it's a privilege to see more of her unfold through the case. It wasn't hard to get attached to her and empathize with her struggles with the police, her work, and her relationship with Detective Luke Walker.

We are treated to the life style of a crime journalist, and it's fun to wonder how much of is based on actual experience as opposed to dramatic invention as the author is a former crime journalist herself. Joining Harper on the case and piecing together the clues is a joy ride, and it's fascinating to figure out who is connected, who isn't, and who should be.

A colorful cast of characters helps keep the story moving and provides some laughs and relief along the way. Bonnie, Harper's best friend, is a delight to read. Her energy, and love and care for her friend are vital to keeping Harper sane and also to helping Harper discover new leads. Harper's boss, the sharp tongued Emma Baxter, seems rather flat, but there is more to her than meets the eye.

A lot of Harper's own motivation for her work is revealed in simple sentences that resonated with me to the end. All the problems and violence she encounters on a day to day basis would have me quitting and running for the hills in an instant, and just when I think she wants to, she surprises me by her determination to see justice.

However, I did struggle to understand the full extent of Harper's problems and why they affected her and her job. While it is eventually explained why Harper is no longer on friendly terms with the local police, I feel as though these are things I should have already known before beginning the novel. Without the context, things I feel I should have known near the beginning only make sense near the middle. It might have been better to read the previous novel, THE ECHO KILLING, first to grasp a better understanding of these characters.

Once it all comes together though, A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE is as thrilling as it is captivating, and I am excited to see what Harper McClain discovers next.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, January 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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