Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mystery Book Review: A Little Learning by Jane Tesh

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of A Little Learning by Jane Tesh. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

A Little Learning by Jane Tesh

by
A Madeline Maclin Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-650-6 (1590586506)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-650-1 (9781590586501)
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Artist and private investigator Madeline Maclyn has married and settled down in the small town of Celosia, North Carolina, but her next case captures her imagination when she looks into a suspicious death and a puzzling will in A Little Learning, the third mystery in this series by Jane Tesh.

Madeline has set up an artist studio and office in her home, and her new husband, Jerry, a schemer and con man who has promised to go straight, works part-time at the local bookstore. It's all very quiet and peaceful. That is until a veteral schoolteacher, Amelia Lever, hated by fellow teachers, students, parents, even her own sons, drops dead of a presumed heart attack. Madeline, being the private investigator she is, decides to take a closer look. Meanwhile, the nephew of a recently deceased man hires Madeline to look into his uncle's will. A substantial inheritence would be given to the first person who could solve a puzzle the man had devised. The problem is: the puzzle is missing, or maybe, finding the puzzle is part of the puzzle itself. Imagine Madeline's surprise when she finds the puzzle among the late Amelia Lever's effects. Now the two cases have a solid connection, but in what manner remains a mystery.

The title, A Little Learning, has multiple meanings here. The characters are initially presented in one light only to find, after a little learning, they are actually quite different. The investigation itself requires a little learning, as does the puzzle that links Amelia's death and the old man's will. A Little Learning has a compelling plot and a surprisingly moving backstory that keeps the reader wondering how it will all turn out.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of A Little Learning and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Former beauty queen and fledgling private investigator Madeline Maclin has married her best friend Jerry Fairweather and settled into his old house in the small town of Celosia, North Carolina. Lately, she’s been concerned that quiet small town life isn’t enough for Jerry, who says he’s given up his cons and schemes but not his phony séances.

Madeline becomes involved in the mysterious death of Amelia Lever, an unpopular teacher at Celosia Elementary School. Her cigarette break turned out to be fatal. But Maddy isn't convinced it was a natural death. Grumpy, uncooperative Amelia Lever was despised by the faculty, mainly for voting against grant proposals.

And then there's her latest case. Nathan Fenton has hired Madeline to help solve a riddle left to him by his Uncle Elijah, a man who loved to play games. The riddle says: “From west to east the river flows, from ancient times the sparrow flies. Trust animals that live in packs, and listen where the portrait lies.” Are the teacher's death and this mysterious riddle somehow related?

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