Book Review: A Dying Note by Ann Parker

A Dying Note
A Silver Rush Mystery #6
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-4642-0979-6
Hardcover

This book finds former Leadville, Colorado, saloon owner Inez Stannert moved to San Francisco where she, with her ward, Antonia Gizzi, intend to start over and make a new life. Inez tows the mark, guarding her reputation as a widowed lady. But that is not true. She is a divorcee, which is almost a crime in 1881.

Inez, who plays piano with concert quality, is working her way to a partnership in a music store, where she keeps the books, makes sales, and teaches piano. The store’s owner concentrates on building his reputation as a musician, playing for the upper echelon of SF. A good many musicians gather the in the store, and there is talk of forming a union.

And then a young violinist is murdered down on the San Francisco docks.

Meanwhile, an old business friend from Leadville, high class bordello owner Frisco Flo Sweet shows up. She’s with another acquaintance from Colorado, who is looking for his son who seems to have jilted a fiancee and disappeared. Harry Gallagher wants Inez to find him, threatening her with exposure if she doesn’t come through.

To this end, Inez is forced to work with Wolter Roeland de Bruijn, but it becomes an unholy mess when it’s discovered the murdered violinist and Robert Gallagher are one and the same. Revealing the murderer puts all the searchers at risk, especially Inez and Antonia.

As always, author Ann Parker has written a tightly plotted mystery filled with excellent characters, and spiced the story with lots of history. Authors often describe women’s clothing of the period, but this time readers will be delighted to learn what gentlemen of the era were wearing in old San Francisco. Recommended.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Reviews: Murder at the P&Z by Dorothy H. Hayes and Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook

Murder at the P&ZMurder at the P & Z
Dorothy H. Hayes
Mainly Murder Press, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-9881944-9-6
Trade Paperback

Carol Rossi covers the city Planning and Zoning Department on her beat as a reporter for the twice weekly paper in Wilton, Connecticut, a bedroom suburb of New York City. Maddy Trowbridge is the longtime secretary of the department and a descendant of one of Wilton’s founding families. She fed Rossi information on upcoming hearings and permit requests, and was pleased by Rossi’s articles about environmental protection.

Rossi discovers Maddy’s body at night under a spruce tree on a road near a local school. What was she doing there? Local police assume it’s a robbery gone bad—there hasn’t been a murder in Wilton in almost a hundred years. But as Rossi begins to question those who knew Maddy for a story, she puts together a very different picture—one of a woman who was distraught for the last two weeks, had thought someone was following her, and wouldn’t confide her problem to her family, fearing for their safety. Was Rossi the only one who thought it was suspicious that the longtime head of Planning and Zoning, Harrison Hayden, had suddenly retired to the Bahamas after leaving his wife?

Rossi is romantically involved with one of the local cops, and spends a lot of time contemplating the difference in their ages (he’s eleven years younger) and their vegan diets. The 1980s setting pushes to the forefront when Rossi has to wait for confirming documents via snail mail, and city maps that exist only in paper form. It was a lot harder to be an investigative reporter before cell phones and the internet. Readers who enjoy mysteries featuring reporters, such as those by Jan Burke and Barbara D’Amato, may want to give this book a try.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, February 2014.

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Must Love DogsMust Love Dogs
Claire Cook
Viking, 2002
ISBN 978-0-670-03106-1
Hardcover
Also available in other editions

Sarah Hurlihy is a divorced woman with a large family of brothers, sisters and an irascible widowed father. All her siblings are married, some happily, others not so much. Even her father is involved with two different women, one he likes and the other, he can’t get rid of. Sarah is the only family member without a husband. The family is convinced that she must start dating again. Her concerned sister, Carol, even signs her up with a dating service and though reluctant to ‘move on,’ Sarah obliges and begins to date first one loser and then another. Carol added the charming disclaimer to Sarah’s requested dating profile, ‘must love dogs.’ To fulfill such a claim, Sarah borrows her brother’s wonky, exuberant, half-grown Saint Bernard puppy, Mother Theresa, to convince her dates that she is, indeed, a devoted dog owner.

Although attracted to the father of one of her pre-school students, Sarah moves through the list of impossible dating prospects, but never takes her eye off of Bob Conner, the man who appears just too perfect to give her a second glance.

Dolly, an eccentric, unlikeable and demanding woman is enamored of Sarah’s father, Billy Hurlilhy, and though the family can’t stand her, including Billy, she insinuates herself into every family gathering, demanding attention and the love Billy Hurlihy isn’t willing to give. What do you do with an elderly woman with pink hair who plops on your living room couch at 10:00 PM and refuses to leave until Billy is found and brought to her?

This hilarious story follows Sarah through her search for a soul-mate. She makes us laugh and despair as she encounters trials and successes.

Add some capricious preschoolers, an intrusive but well-meaning family, a woman’s heart that needs mending, an oversized puppy, a teenage niece who hates her mother, (what teenage niece doesn’t?) and an oversexed elderly father and you have the ingredients that makes Must Love Dogs a can’t lay it down book about love, life, and dogs.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, February 2014.