Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Overkill by Eugenia Lovett West

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Overkill by Eugenia Lovett West. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Overkill by Eugenia Lovett West

by
An Emma Street Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37114-4 (0312371144)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37114-2 (9780312371142)
Publication Date: November 2009
List Price: $25.99

Review: Former opera singer Emma Streat is having trouble dealing with her recent past -- the murder of her husband, the loss of her singing voice when a fire bomb destroyed her home, even not being a "hands-on" mom when her sons go off to college -- when she receives a call from Venice asking for her help in Overkill, the second mystery in this series by Eugenia Lovett West.

Cathy Riordan, an assistant to Emma's niece Vanessa Metcalf, pleads with Emma to immediately travel to Italy. Vanessa, a promising opera diva, intends to quit her vocation and run off with a man she just met following her next -- and final -- performance. Seth Barbazaolan is handsome and rich, and has promised Vanessa a life of leisure and happiness. Emma flies to Venice to discuss the matter with her niece, but soon after her arrival, Cathy's accompanist is found dead, hung with a drapery cord in Vanessa's suite, an apparent suicide. In the wake of this tragedy, Emma insists Vanessa and Cathy return with her to Boston, reasoning that her niece can always catch up with Seth in Sardinia later. But after arriving in the US, Vanessa suddenly becomes deathly ill. At the hospital, tests suggest she has acquired a virus of some kind -- and officials fear it may be the avian flu, the first such case in the US. Emma calls on Lord Andrew Rodale for help, a man who first worked with her in solving her husband's murder, and together they uncover an international organization that trafficks in deadly viruses.

The synopsis of Overkill suggests this mystery may be complicated and overworked, a plot with too many disparate elements, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's more like a grand puzzle, engaging the reader to put the pieces together with Emma Streat. Emma herself is a delightful amateur sleuth, a capable, determined woman, who has faced recent hardship but is unwilling to let that stop her from protecting her family, even if she doesn't quite know what that may entail. This fast-paced, thrilling, really rather sophisticated read will almost certainly be remembered as one of the best mysteries of the year.

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

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Emma Streat is rebuilding her shattered life in Boston when she receives an SOS from Venice. She must come at once to intervene in a disastrous affair between her opera singer niece, Vanessa, and a notorious playboy. But the night Emma and Vanessa return home, Vanessa is struck down by what appears to be the first case of avian flu in the United States.

Suddenly Emma is forced to cope with the medical world. As the case assumes a larger, international aspect, she finds herself working again with a charismatic British peer. Will their unusual relationship survive Emma’s new interest in a brilliant doctor?

After two shocking murders, Emma has to rev up her now-established talent for making unlikely connections, in order to smoke out a lethal global network that sells stolen viruses—and save herself from a painful and horrifying death.

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