Friday, January 26, 2007

Mystery Book Review: A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh

A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh
A Madeline Maclin Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-354-X (159058354X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-343-2 (9781590583432)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): After solving her first big murder case in the small town of Celosia, North Carolina, Madeline Maclin hopes at last to be taken seriously as a private investigator. She's opened an office in the home of her best friend Jerry Fairweather, a man haunted by his past who enjoys running harmless scams.

Jerry doesn't feel worthy of anyone's love--bad news for Madeline--although she thinks Jerry's sister Harriet knows more about the accident that killed their parents than she'll say.

Madeline is hired to find Kirby Willet, an eccentric inventor who left boxes of his belongings, including one filled with money, at Frannie Thomas’ house. Meanwhile Voltage Films director, Josh Gaskins, is in town and thinks Jerry's old house will be perfect for his horror film, "Curse of the Mantis Man," about Celosia's mythical beast. Is this monster actually real?

Celosia is also hopping with the Pageantoids, rabid fans from Madeline's days as a beauty queen, who have come to Celosia to produce more pageants. And then there's Rick Rialto, one of Jerry's shady con artist friends.

When Gaskins is murdered, Madeline uncovers several suspects and is forced to make--and investigate--some hard bargains. At least one of which is with Jerry …

Review: Former beauty queen Madeline Maclin returns in A Hard Bargain, the second mystery in this series by Jane Tesh.

One of Madeline's first cases as an independent private investigator is to locate a man whose belongings were placed in the care of a neighbor who is now eager to get rid of them. While searching through boxes belonging to the missing man for clues to his whereabouts, she finds $10,000 in cash, money no one thinks he could legitimately have earned. In parallel to her investigation, she's also trying to understand what really happened on the night her best friend's parents were killed over 20 years ago. There are a couple of other subplots that are peripheral to the story but help introduce additional characters.

Madeline is a well-drawn and appealing lead for the series and A Hard Bargain is mildly entertaining as a cozy mystery. There are, however, some fairly obvious inconsistencies in the plots of each of the main storylines that must be either overlooked or forgiven in order to enjoy the story. The missing person's case really isn't much of one (Madeline locates him with minimal effort), and it's hard to believe that the police investigating the deaths of her friend's parents decades ago didn't put forth the very same questions Madeline asks the family today. And for all practical purposes, Madeline accidentally stumbles onto the solution of the only real mystery in the book, the murder of the director of a movie that is being filmed in her community.

A Hard Bargain is probably not the best choice for that inclement afternoon, but it won't disappoint either.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of A Hard Bargain for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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