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by Angela Gerst
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2011
270 pages
ISBN: 1590589440

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Susan Callisto is pleased with her decision to leave a prestigious Boston law firm to strike out on her own as a political consultant. Her landlord is not so pleased (she's behind in her rent); her utility company is not so pleased (she's in danger of being cut off); her credit card company is not so pleased (she's about to max out). Her finances are not great, because her clients - mostly aldermen - are at the bottom of the political ladder.

Some light glows at the end of the tunnel when a prospective client, Charles (Chaz) Renfrow enters, soliciting her help as a consultant to his campaign for mayor of Telford, Massachusetts. Susan reminds him that the filing deadline is looming and that he needs 500 signatures to get on the ballot. Chaz says that will be no problem and offers Susan a retainer of $20,000. Visions of paying her rent, her utility bill, and her credit cards dance in her head as she reluctantly accepts the check. Chaz is especially eager because his rival wants to run his firm NovoGenTech ( a company he says is on the brink of creating a gene that will prolong life) out of business.

To check on Renfrow, Susan calls her friend Beauford Smith. To her astonishment, he is venomous in his denunciation of Renfrow, calling him a liar and a polluter. In fact, Smith says, Renfrow drove him out of business, cost him all his clients, and bankrupted him. Then, as Susan is heading off to confront Renfrow, she comes across the body of his beautiful assistant, murdered. Later, when Renfrow is found strangled in his office, it becomes clear that he'd been feding Susan a string of lies.

Susan is also juggling a legal issue involving her "adopted" grandfather, Nino Biondi, and his landlord, Peter Lombard, who wants Nino out of his beloved restaurant so that he can sell the building. Nino is both cantankerous and adamant. Whatever the carrot dangled before him - relocation to a prime location in Harvard Square, together with an apartment in Cambridge - he will not budge. Nino is found beaten in an alley and is in a coma for many days. Susan does not endear herself to Nino when she uses her power of attorney to negotiate a new agreement with Lombard.

Susan is an attractive person, if a rotten judge of character. She has a wry sense of humor that warms us to her. A CRACK IN EVERYTHING marks a very promising debut and we look forward to her reappearance in the future.

Mary Elizabeth Devine taught English Literature for 35 years, is co-author of five books about customs and manners around the world and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, December 2011

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