Friday, February 27, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Angel Food and Devil Dogs by Liz Bradbury

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Angel Food and Devil Dogs by Liz Bradbury. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Angel Food and Devil Dogs by Liz Bradbury

A Maggie Gale Mystery

Boudica Publishing (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9800549-1-5 (0980054915)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9800549-1-0 (9780980054910)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $14.95

Review: Liz Bradbury introduces former police officer, now private investigator Maggie Gale as she looks into the suspicious suicide of a college professor in Angel Food and Devil Dogs.

Dr. Carl Rasmus, a blind music history professor at the local college, killed himself by jumping over a balcony from the top of a 6-story building. He left a suicide note indicating his intention, and the police are satisfied with closing the case. But the college's new president, Dr. Max Bouchet, isn't convinced. He hires Maggie to look more closely into the circumstances surrounding his suicide. Maggie tends to agree with Bouchet's assessment. When she visits the building's rooftop, she ponders, "How did he even know there was a balcony? Where did he get the key [to the locked French doors]? How did he know there wasn't a huge awning under the balcony that would break his fall? The whole thing seemed implausible. Killing a blind man wouldn't have been that hard to do ... but Carl had left a suicide note in a locked room ... and that I couldn't explain."

Angel Food and Devil Dogs has basically a locked room, impossible crime scenario, always a promising premise for a mystery. And for the most part, the story delivers on that promise. Maggie Gale is a multi-dimensional character who takes her job and her relationships seriously. Being a former cop, she understands the investigative process and she steps right in when a life is in jeopardy, endangering herself as well. Her developing relationship with a college faculty member, Dr. Kathryn Anthony, is sweetly told, and even better for the book, is an integral part of the mystery. The clues to the explanation behind Rasmus' suicide are peppered throughout, and Maggie cleverly pieces them together to discover the who, how, and why. All well and good.

A few things don't work, however. The opening investigation involving Mickey is a distraction, sets the wrong tone for the book, and really has no place in the story. The dialog is frequently stilted and the narrative at times uneven. A more critical eye towards editing would have helped here. But most disappointing is the inclusion of homophobia into the story. It seems every gay or lesbian novelist seems obliged to have one or more homophobic characters, or to make homophobia the motive for a crime. It's a tired and overworked cliché for this genre. Angel Food and Devil Dogs is a strong enough mystery, with a compelling well-developed plot and sufficiently interesting suspects with credible motives, that the homophobic references in the end are not only unnecessary, they actually weaken the book. The author should have had more confidence in her story, and her readers, and omitted them.

Special thanks to Boudica Publishing for providing a copy of Angel Food and Devil Dogs for this review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): As private detective Maggie Gale works to prove the innocence of a mentally challenged pinball wizard who's been arrested for murder, she is called to college president Max Bouchet's office to discuss the suspicious suicide of a gay professor. There, Maggie shakes hands with the attractive Dr. Kathryn Anthony, who smiles at her with a faint but unmistakable touch of lust. Maggie is hired and meets a collection of quirky suspects, one of whom might just be a murderer. Maggie's humorous and caring friends and family support her as she works against escalating danger, and toward escalating romantic encounters with Kathryn. Will Maggie untangle both mysteries? Will the sexual tension swirling around Maggie and Kathryn pull them together? Or will the murderer target Maggie before she gets either chance?

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