Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mystery Book Review: In Over My Head by Diane Marquette

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of In Over My Head by Diane Marquette. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.In Over My Head by Diane Marquette

In Over My Head by
A Chesapeake Conference Center Mystery

Cambridge Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59431-468-3 (1594314683)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59431-468-1 (9781864314681)
Publication Date: July 2007
List Price: $16.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Jill McCormick works as the night security guard at an exclusive, high-level conference center on 's Chesapeake Bay. She considers her job a stepping stone to something better in her pursuit of a career in law enforcement, and recognizes that a stint at the prestigious Chesapeake Conference Center will look impressive on her resume.

But the tranquil waters turn choppy when the drowning of a prominent guest begins to look more like murder, and the evidence mounts against Jill's boss, the self-centered and unpopular general manager of the center. When the local sheriff seems content to look the other way rather than suspect his good friend the manager, Jill enlists the help of her deputy lover, Mitch Garrett, to conduct an investigation of their own, even though it may implicate both their bosses in the murder.

Review: Diane Marquette's debut novel, In Over My Head, featuring security guard Jill McCormick, might have worked better as a mystery if only it were a mystery. Inexplicably, Marquette pens a three paragraph prologue that not only reveals (for all practical purposes) who the killer is, but the motive for the murder as well. For someone interested in a whodunit, there's almost no point in reading any further.

A medical conference is taking place at the Chesapeake Conference Center organized by Dr. Roger Henderson, a cardiologist from . The morning after everyone attending the conference arrives, Dr. Henderson is found dead in the swimming pool. Jill McCormick, a security guard at the conference center, is just getting off the night shift and helps recover the body. She participates in the subsequent investigation which determines (no surprise here) the death is not accidental, and is instrumental in solving the crime by identifying the killer.

Setting aside the whodunit aspect for a moment, In Over My Head suffers from not knowing what kind of mystery it wants to be. At times it tries to be a cozy. There is the requisite cat, Gunther, which has a higher character profile than the victim or any of the suspects. Or is it a police procedural, where the discovery of clues and piecing together the evidence inexorably leads to the apprehensive of the killer? Maybe romantic suspense, where the focus is less on the crime than on the relationship between Jill and Deputy Mitch Garrett? It's all this and more, including the increasingly tired plot device of a woman professional having to work twice as hard as a man in order to get the recognition she deserves.

This disarray is all the more unfortunate because Marquette seems to be a competent writer. The narrative is relatively crisp and the dialog natural. Character development is a bit weak as is setting and locale, but in a series these can advanced over time. However, if she's going for a whodunit-style mystery, at the very least there has to be some suspense, some unknown factor that compels the reader to turn the page and find out what happens next. In Over My Head has none of that.

Special thanks to Diane Marquette for providing a copy of In Over My Head for this review.

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

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