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by J. B. Stanley
Berkley, August 2007
224 pages
ISBN: 0425216705

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Molly Appleby is attending the Heart of Dixie Antique Show in Nashville. She is on assignment for the Collector’s Weekly, which wants an article about the experience. Molly is also accompanying her mother, Clara, who plans on doing antique buying. As Clara spent many years in this field, she is familiar with many of the dealers and looks forward to renewing relationships. As with all ‘reunions’ some of the dealers have changed dramatically and other remain the same.

One of the dealers that have changed is Tom Barnett. Barnett is an antique dealer specializing in medical antiques. He has the reputation of being an honest and very knowledgeable dealer. Currently he appears somewhat short of money as his ex-wife is demanding additional funds and the antique world is an up and down business.

While searching for coffee on the first full day of the show, Molly discovers Tom's body in the conservatory. He is obviously dead and the police are called in. Molly does not find Detective Reginald Butler particularly reassuring, as he does not want her assistance with the investigation. Not being one to sit on the sidelines, Molly and her mother begin their own investigation regardless of the police’s response.

Unfortunately there are several possible suspects. In addition to Charity Barnett, Tom’s ex-wife, there is another dealer who had accused Tom of theft. Not to mention rumors that Tom’s pristine reputation is no longer accurate. Molly must once again investigate the underbelly of the antiques world to help catch a killer.

Overall, A DEADLY DEALER is a typical craft cozy mystery. It features an amateur detective hunting down a criminal, interspersed with tidbits and stories regarding a craft, tips, recipes or in this case antiques. A DEADLY DEALER takes the modern day murder investigation and intersperses this story with the history of a specific walking stick located in Barnett’s stock. At first these chapters, relating to the walking stick, interrupt the flow of the narrative but ultimately their purpose is clear and then don't distract from the rest of the book.

Molly is an amateur detective who dislikes violence but is well aware of her ability to solve crimes. She likes to work with the police but will do her own investigating when necessary. And as typical of the cozy subgenre, Molly works hard at dealing with her family and personal relationships. Molly is somewhat immature when it comes to dealing with relationship so her responses to both her mother and her boyfriend make her sound like a child rather than an adult. When Molly is at her most childish, it is difficult to find her appealing or care about what happens to her.

A DEADLY DEALER has some ‘cutesy’ elements that I find annoying. Most of them I can overlook as these elements are JB Stanley’s way of implying a Southern family and relationship (word choices, speech patterns and topics of interest). The one thing that is the most aggravating is Clara’s chronic use of pet names for Molly – especially since she uses more and more pet names when she wants to force Molly into doing something. Chronically changing pet names, not to mention controlling parents, are not something that I enjoy reading about regardless of circumstances so I find it distracting in this book.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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