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by Eleanor Taylor Bland
St Martin's Minotaur, November 2005
272 pages
ISBN: 031232667X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A DARK AND DEADLY DECEPTION is the latest in a long-running series featuring African-American detective Marti MacAlister and her family and colleagues. It's a series I've found pleasant enough to dip into, but it's never grabbed me enough to keep up with.

Marti and her colleague Vik have two cases to juggle. There's a big Hollywood movie being shot in the Chicago area, and one of the actresses in it is found dead in the Des Plaines River. The film crew are all fairly low on the social skills and no one seems that fussed about the death.

And the woman's daughter, when she turns up, is behaving bizarrely with 'I've got something to hide' virtually tattooed on her forehead! The only clue seems to be that the dead woman was wearing some unusual jewellery which provides a bemusing link to eastern Europe.

The second case looks like being equally tricky to crack, when the skeleton of a gunshot victim is found in an old building that's being renovated.

A DARK AND DEADLY DECEPTION has a slow, meandering plot. It's neat enough, but lacks tension, and everything is tied up far too neatly at the end. The final scene merges on melodrama -- I was waiting for the baddie to twirl their moustache or shout 'curse you, Red Baron!'

One of the book's strengths is the portrayal of Marti's home life. She has a thoroughly pleasant, wholesome family, who keep her grounded amidst the work hassles. But it looks like this idyllic set-up is under threat when she realises fireman husband Ben has something on his mind . . .

I wasn't quite sure about the fact that almost everyone around Marti, with the exception of her boss Gail Nicholson, is teeth-achingly nice. It would have been nice to see some more light and shade in the characterisation. And I could have lived without the book's churchy stuff which also verged on the saccharine.

So A DARK AND DEADLY DECEPTION is a bit of a shrug. It's an easy and pleasant enough read, but didn't persuade me to fill in the gaps in the series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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