Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland

Deadly Appraisal by
A Josie Prescott Mystery

St. Martin's Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-34366-3 (0312343663)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-34366-8 (9780312343668)
Publication Date: April 2007
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Josie Prescott is settling into her new life in . Her antiques business is thriving, she's beginning to make some close friends, and her relationship with the local police chief is becoming more interesting. Not bad for someone who has completely uprooted her life as a New York City auction house expert in order to get a fresh start in a small New England town.

With so much suddenly to lose, Josie can't help but worry when murder invades her seemingly quiet community. Josie is sponsoring the Portsmouth Women's Guild Annual Black and Gold Gala and is looking forward to receiving a kindly worded thank-you for her efforts. Instead, the Guild representative, Maisy Gaylor, dies a horrible death in the midst of the banquet. Who could have wanted to kill earnest, drab little Maisy? "Funny, isn't it," muses the hostile detective Rowcliff, "how a lot of people end up dead when no one has any enemies."

Everyone who had access to the wine Maisy drank, including Josie herself, soon comes under suspicion. Can Josie manage to ferret out the truth, keep her business running smoothly, and continue to put down roots in her new town, or will everything prove too much for her to handle on her own?

Review: Deadly Appraisal is the second winning entry in this entertaining series by Jane K. Cleland that features New Hampshire antiques dealer and amateur sleuth Josie Prescott.

Josie's antique consignment shop is starting to do well, and she is quickly becoming known throughout the community. An opportunity to showcase her expertise comes up when Maisy Gaylor of the Portsmouth Women's Guild asks Josie to sponsor a charity dinner and antique auction. Following the dinner, the rather shy Maisy is to announce the winning bidders. Before she can do so, she coughs, screams, and collapses to the floor – dead. Someone has poisoned her wine. Who would want to kill Maisy? She had no enemies. Through intense questioning of everyone at the gala by the police, the question becomes not who killed Maisy, but was Maisy the intended victim? Could the poison have been meant for Josie? This idea becomes even more credible when a few nights later Josie is injured by a hit-and-run. Even Josie begins to believe that there is someone out there trying to kill her. But why?

Though this series has a fairly typical background story (woman leaves the big city to establish herself anew in a small town, starts a new business, makes new friends, and without really trying finds herself in a new relationship), Cleland makes it seem fresh. Deadly Appraisal nicely balances Josie's personal life, her professional life, and of course a murder mystery that will have the reader guessing as to the killer's identity until the very end. There is also the requisite inclusion of facts about the antiques business, but Cleland so effortlessly incorporates them into the story that they are an interesting, integral part of the plot. Why, for example, is one antique worth so much money when another, virtually identical item, is worthless? The answer to this question may lead to murder!

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Deadly Appraisal and to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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