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Monday, March 13, 2017


3 stars out of 5

This book's official description says the "truth contorts to a climax that will leave readers breathless." Oh, I beg to differ. In fact, I've got plenty of wind left to shout this: I hate cliffhangers. Not slightly, not even a titch - especially when they're of this magnitude. No doubt some folks will say I have no right to complain since I got it free through one of the free/low-cost book services to which I belong, but that's my issue and I'm s-s-sticking to it.

I chose to download it for two reasons: First, it was a murder mystery - my genre of choice, and second, the lead character's surname is Pickett - the surname I was born with. It was the same thing that attracted me to the popular series by C.J. Box featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett; I've read every single one of those and loved them all.

This one, not so much. Besides the monumental cliffhanger - and trust me, it's a doozy - there were just too many things that were turn-offs, starting with misused apostrophes and other grammatical glitches such as the mention (several times) that a male character was expected to be "discrete" in his philandering. Yikes - more than enough to drive this writer/copy editor up the wall. 

And while I rather liked Jenny Pickett - a retired Miami police detective now living in small-town Forest Pines, Montana - in several instances she simply came off sounding stupid. She knew giggling at a funeral isn't appropriate? Well, since she's pushing 50, I should hope so. And she "couldn't help but notice" that a possible suspect was nervous? Oh, gosh, might that be because he turned pasty white and dropped his coffee on the floor, cup and all? Big whoop - I think a four-year-old would have picked up on that one.

Ah well, it is a cozy mystery, after all, so perhaps I should go a little easier. So there's this: The story itself is pretty good. Jenny is single, and beautiful (of course), and the town of Forest Pines is so laid back that the novice sheriff, Steve Calder, has had an easy go of it. But all that changes when a dead guy with a bullet hole in his head turns up on the fourth tee of a local golf course. Faced with leading a real investigation, Steve turns to the vastly more experienced Jenny for help (and oh, did I mention that Steve, who's only 29, has a serious crush on the much-older Jenny)?

As the investigation begins, several possible culprits turn up, including a husband whose wife played hanky-panky with the victim and a store owner who owed the victim a bundle of money but couldn't repay. Toss in a couple of the victim's mistresses and a wronged wife, and you've got the makings for an intriguing race to the finish. In between were some chapters detailing why Jenny retired and left Miami; interesting background, I suppose, but I never understood the relevance to anything that happened in this book.

Actually, until I reached that last fateful chapter, I found the book to be engrossing (it's very short, so I easily finished in one day). The bottom line is this: If you've got no problem with being forced into buying the next book to find out what (IMHO) should have been included in this one, go for it - it's quite enjoyable.

I do, and I won't.

Murder at the Fourth by Duncan Whitehead (UOL, February 2016); 147 pp.

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