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by Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2006
238 pages
ISBN: 1590582195

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Former beauty pageant contestant, Madeline 'Mac' Maclin, is now a private investigator. She is running her own detective agency but finding new clients is a struggle. As Mac has nothing pressing, she accompanies her best friend Jerry Fairweather to the house he inherited from his uncle. Uncle Val died of a heart attack and did not get along with the rest of the family so Jerry does not know much about him or the house.

Once in town, they discover that the town of Celosia is in the grip of beauty pageant madness. The Miss Celosia pageant approaches and someone is determined to sabotage the event. Mac ends up being hired to investigate the pageant. Unfortunately, one of the contestants is murdered before Mac is able to do much investigating. Even though the police do not want her involved, Mac is determined to find the killer before he or she strikes again.

As Mac attempts to catch this killer she also works with Jerry on his big plans regarding the house and the possible haunting of a local authorís home. If she can find the time, Mac also hopes to find a way to tell Jerry she wants to be more than friends.

A CASE OF IMAGINATION is a lighthearted and goofy cozy. The characters are interesting yet unusual. For example, Jerry has turned his back on his family fortune and has instead embraced the supernatural. That said, he is something of a con artist and does not believe in the supernatural; it is merely a paying gig. Mac is a former artist, former beauty pageant contestant and current divorcee. She is not afraid of danger and wants to be a good detective. The fact that she must use her memories from her pageant days to catch a killer strikes her as unfair and annoys her.

A CASE OF IMAGINATION is Jane Tesh's debut novel. Like most debut novels, this book has some flaws. The plot does not move smoothly or cohesively, which distracts from the overall story. Tesh does not do a very good job of paying equal time to Macís various investigations nor does she make Macís discoveries apparent. Even though Mac may learn something during her questioning, the worth and relevance of this information is not always visible. While the characters have interesting personalities, their ability to relate to each other is not strongly developed and at times seems unrealistic.

Even with its faults, A CASE OF IMAGINATION does provide a light-hearted escape from the everyday. While I find the faults of this book aggravating, I can appreciate this book for its entertainment value and the escapism it provides. If Tesh can correct the flaws of this book, she could have an impact on this sub-genre.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, April 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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