Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mystery Book Review: George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays

George Washington Stepped Here by
A Karen Maxwell Mystery

Heartsong (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59789-594-6 (1597895946)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59789-594-1 (9781597895941)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $4.97

Review: K. D. Hays introduces novice private investigator Karen Maxwell in George Washington Stepped Here, the first of three in a series and originally released as a book in the Heartsong Present Mysteries book club but now available for purchase separately.

Karen works for her brother Dave, a private investigator with his own agency but a little overworked after his partner retires. An office administrator, she's hoping to step up her career by taking on more of the investigative duties. Dave surprises her when he assigns Karen to a case of a missing Revolutionary War artifact, a piece of leather that purportedly was written on by George Washington. The house, now a museum staffed with volunteers in period costumes, where it was on display needs it to prove that the residence has historical significance; without it, it's merely an old house. Some of the volunteers think the piece of leather cannot possibly be attributed to Washington, and its existence diminishes the house's historical value, not enhances it. Others, including their client, believe otherwise. Karen goes undercover at the house to do a bit of snooping, but then another theft occurs and she realizes that "the dedicated volunteers all wanted to share the site's history with the public; they just disagreed about the best way to accomplish this goal." For at least one of them, the end doesn't justify the means.

Readers looking for a clean, wholesome, non-violent, non-murder mystery will find all that and more in George Washington Stepped Here. Karen is a comfortably familiar heroine combining the joys and challenges of being a mother to two children with the joys and challenges of being a newly minted private investigator. The story, however, has a paint-by-numbers feel to it, as if it was crafted by carefully, closely, and unerringly following some "How to Write a Mystery" outline of dos and don'ts. To be sure, it's competently written with clear prose and dialog and a picture postcard setting, but it's all a little perfect. Too perfect. It's missing a spark, an edge, something to differentiate it from all the other amateur sleuth series and capture the reader's imagination. Even most of the supporting characters have a cardboard feel to them. This isn't to say George Washington Stepped Here isn't a good or even eminently readable mystery; it simply isn't a memorable one.

Special thanks to K. D. Hays for providing a copy of George Washington Stepped Here for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): For years after her divorce, Karen Maxwell handled administrative paperwork for her brother’s private investigation agency while he ran around town doing the “fun” part—the investigation. When his partner retires, he finally offers her a chance to take a case of her own. She soon finds out why.

The assignment involves the theft of the local historical society’s most treasured artifact, and her brother figures everyone involved is a little crazy. While Karen poses as a volunteer at the site to catch the thief, she meets a host of dedicated historical re-enactors, one of whom happens to be tall, handsome and unmarried. Unfortunately, he is also a prime suspect.

And not only does she have to spend her Saturdays running around in funny clothes, she has to somehow get her kids to go along with it, too.

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