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DEALING IN MURDER
by Elaine Flinn
Avon Books, October 2003
368 pages
$6.50
ISBN: 0060545798


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Molly Doyle, known in her previous life as a top-of-the-line antique dealer in New York City as Elizabeth Porter, is now running a low-to-middling range antique-cum-junk shop in Carmel. She owes this change in fortune to her (now-ex)husband and his lover, who ran a criminal scam which left her reputation sullied, at best. She is trying to start over, with the help of some loyal friends and her wealth of knowledge about antiques.

In the process of acquiring some stock, at the local garage sales, she buys a desk and neglects to get the keys for it. When she returns for the keys, the woman from whom she bought the desk is in the process of dying. Apparently the woman Molly passed on the way in stabbed Lorna Jacobs many times. Molly is the obvious suspect, even without a credible motive or a murder weapon.

Chief Kenneth Randall is new on the job, having moved to Carmel from LA to get away from the creeps and the crud. He and Molly don't get along from the get-go; Randall is astute enough to realize that at least part of the animosity stems from the various ways in which Molly reminds him of his ex-wife. Molly has her own baggage, having to do with coming from a family of cops and a father in prison for being on the take, which color her reactions to Randall.

Molly is determined to figure out what happened, partly to get Randall off her back, and partly because she doesn't want/need more scandall attached to her name. This decision to investigate is reinforced when one of the women in the courtyard, Bea who owns the flower shop, commits suicide after leaving a note confessing to killing Lorna Jacobs. Molly is positive that Bea did NOT kill herself, and manages to convince Randall of that.

During the course of the novel, Molly and Randall come to terms. There is obvious potential for a romance between these two; the age difference doesn't seem to matter to either of them. Molly is very instrumental in solving the crime(s), which causes quite a bit of tension between her and Randall. He resents her knowledge, both of antiques (since he is a collector) and of police procedure, what can and can't be done.

The cast of characters is as colorful as one might expect when the setting is a place as lovely and artsy as Carmel. Ms. Flinn does an excellent job making all the people distinct and memorable without making them caricatures. There are several women in Dealing that I'd like to know, or grow up to be. Bitsy, for instance, is a great character - she irritates Molly but Molly has to put up with her because Max, Molly's benefactor, has wished Bitsy on her. Bitsy turns out to know quite a bit of Molly's family history, which Molly really wants to know, but isn't sure that knowing Bitsy is worth it. Especially after Bitsy warns Molly to avoid Daria, a local restaurateur who wants to do some major bartering with Molly.

This is a very woman-focussed book, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The male characters, for the most part, are not the driving forces in Dealing. What happens, in terms of plot, comes from the minds of the female characters. The men tend to be easily manipulated by the women around them, although there are obvious exceptions.

I did learn some things about antiques while reading this, although I would like to have learned more. For example, on page 84, Bitsy is giving Molly a bit of static about her lack of experience in this kind of antique-dealing. " . . . she . . . picked up a red bowl. `Tell me, is this ruby or cranberry?" " While I don't particularly need to know which is which, I would have liked to know how Bitsy could tell the difference, and we aren't told that.

I enjoyed this book. I am passing it along to a co-worker who enjoys antiques and collecting. Flinn has a great start here and I look forward to more in the series.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, July 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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