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by Gillian Roberts
Ballantine Books, January 2007
272 pages
ISBN: 034548021X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Philadelphia prep school English teacher Amanda Pepper is also a budding PI and is asked by her oldest pal Sasha Berg, to look into the apparent suicide, by sleeping pills, of her stepmother, Phoebe Ennis. Since Phoebe was Sasha's stepmother way back when they were schoolgirls together, Amanda remembers Phoebe kindly and, though she isn't thrilled about taking on a case now, she agrees to see if it was indeed a suicide or murder.

This is a bad time for Amanda. Her husband CK Mackenzie is terribly worried about his family in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has hit them all hard and relief is not coming soon. Mac has visited them on and off, but with his studies to be a criminologist and the lack of big bucks to help them out, he's pretty miserable.

As Amanda looks into the so-called suicide, she speaks to anyone who might have visited Phoebe. Phoebe had just been widowed, but as sad as she had been to see her fifth husband go, she had been energetically looking for number six by asking to be hooked up by friends and going to dating websites. The night she died she was supposed to have been visited by someone, but the person is unknown.

Phoebe had been having some troubles lately, and to Sasha it all points to someone wanting to harm Phoebe, not to her stepmother harming herself. The small shop she ran with a friend was going under. It was a store that sold all sorts of cute things for pet owners, everything from fancy outfits for your parrot to bejeweled water bowls for Fido. The store had never made much profit, but suddenly her friend accused Phoebe of stealing and bringing the store to bankruptcy, thereby ruining her marriage. Phoebe's son, Dennis Allenby, someone detested by Sasha, was having money troubles and would profit immensely by Phoebe's death.

When a woman hired by Dennis to sell Phoebe's home is found dead in the house, the idea that Phoebe was done in becomes clear to Amanda. Now all she has to do is solve the case, try to make Mac less miserable as he worries about his family, be an interesting teacher for her students and not succumb to her dislike of a rich man's son in her class.

This is the 14th in the series and, as I have completely enjoyed the others, I really got a kick out of ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS. Amanda, with her no-nonsense ways and schoolteacher problems, makes a fine lead character and the readers can't help but like her and her real human foibles. The secondary characters are, as ever, well-created people who contribute a lot to the mystery and the solid construction of the book. The mystery is as well put together as ever. I didn't see it coming, and when the guilty party was discovered, it turns out that all the small clues made brilliant sense. It was nicely done!

This is unfortunately the last in the Amanda Pepper Mystery series. I am so sorry to see it end, but author Gillian Roberts has done a fine job with the final installment. The ending, as written, makes sense for Amanda and her husband. But honestly, I'm still hoping that in the future, another Amanda Pepper mystery might make an appearance.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, February 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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