Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Dead Husband by R. J. Brown

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Dead Husband by R. J. Brown. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Dead Husband by R. J. Brown

A Sally Collier Mystery

Big River Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9798744-7-5 (0979874475)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9798744-7-5 (9780979874475)
Publication Date: April 2009
List Price: $14.95

Review: Charwoman Sally Collier discovers a whole new meaning to the phrase "cleaning up" when she discovers the body of her employer in The Dead Husband, the light-hearted debut mystery by R. J. Brown.

Sally owns her own company, Sal's Gals, a home cleaning service in Port Townsend, Washington. One of her clients, Renee and Mel Birnbaum, own a magnificent estate overlooking the bay. She's known the family for years and is shocked when she finds the body of Mel in the garden. Naturally considered a person of interest in the case, she's asked by her beau George Tullock, the Chief of Detectives for Jefferson County, to recall everything she can leading up to her discovery of the body.

At this point, The Dead Husband takes a look back at Sally's life, from her emigration from the UK to Chicago where she married and had two children, to her subsequent move to the west coast where she originally met the Birnbaums and, much later, her arrival in Washington where she sets up her business.

The point of this journey through time is to set up Sally as someone who pays attention to details, who "sees" things others might overlook. (It may also be setting up plotlines of future books in the series.) George knows Sally has this ability and uses her talent to point out what was different about the house from her previous visit, allowing the investigation into Mel's death to be steered in the right direction.

The Dead Husband is really all about Sally, who is so well-developed as a character that she can carry the story. In a word, she's delightful. She's the type of person one would want as a friend, a self-confident woman who knows how to balance what she wants in, and from, life and what she needs. She treats everyone with respect and care, and seems almost too good to be true. Which, of course, makes her the perfect suspect for a murder!

It will be interesting to see where the author takes the series from here, but as a first book, The Dead Husband is quite entertaining.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Dead Husband and to R. J. Brown for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Cleaning up dead husbands is not in Sally Collier's job description so when she finds one half-buried at the bottom of his garden, her Monday morning schedule gets seriously derailed.

Sally has history with Melvin Birnbaum, the owner of the multi-million dollar home overlooking Discovery Bay on the Olympic Peninsula and after her beau, Jefferson County Chief of Detectives George Tullock warns she'll have to do a Sally Sees: remember what she saw on her arrival, her day turns into a walk down memory lane.

From a post-World War II London childhood to being a secretary and emigrating to Chicago; from years as an eager-beaver office girl to single motherhood; from heading west to the Bay Area where she met Mel, his wife Renee, their daughter, Claire and their dog, Borscht, to working in a doctor's practice in picturesque Port Townsend. Now she's a charwoman with her own company of highly qualified women, Sal's Gals, has made a good life for herself and found a good man to love.

As this feisty char's work week unfolds she's harassed by the widow Renee and her employer, the Seattle entrepreneur Alan Hatton, takes Mel's dog and the grieving daughter under her wing, shows the case detectives, Smith and Westin, a thing or two and is summoned to the reading of the deceased's will.

From her unique perspective as an immigrant and a business woman Sally isn't shy about why she loves the houses she cleans, her stories, her romance and telling how the mystery of The Dead Husband unravels.

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