Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Silver Dagger Mysteries
Release Date: August, 2003
ISBN: 1570722471 (Trade Paperback) 157072248X (Hardcover)
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre: Police Procedural
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer:Susan McBride

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Belgrave's website

Reviewer Susan McBride is the author of Overkill.

Deadly Associations
By Laura Belgrave

     Laura Belgrave is an author I've been keeping an eye on. I read and reviewed her first two mysteries, In The Spirit of Murder and Deadly Quiet, and I was truly impressed. I liked her "fish out of water" protagonist, Claudia Hershey, very much. A police detective who'd divorced and moved her daughter from Ohio to Central Florida, Claudia has a lot of gumption and a nose for the truth. Her relationship with the teenaged Robin seemed real as well, and their ongoing battles only added depth to Claudia's character, showing the frustrations of a single mother trying to handle a very difficult profession and raise a child single-handedly.

     That said, I'd hoped for an awful lot with Deadly Associations, Belgrave's third in the series, and maybe my expectations were just too high. The story begins with a bang; literally--a bump on Claudia's noggin when she pays a professional call on a home in Willow Whisper, a new gated community in the small town of Indian Run, Florida. The homeowner, Steven Hemmer, has lured Detective Hershey out on false pretenses. When he lets her in, she sees four people bound with duct tape, and Hemmer's holding them hostage with a 9 mm semiautomatic (the same gun he broad-sided Claudia with as she entered).

     Apparently, Hemmer's upset because his four prisoners--members of the Willow
Whisper homeowner's association--had turned down his repeated requests to repaint his house and replace a cracked slab of concrete patio in his backyard. Driven to desperation, he threatens to kill them, with Claudia as a witness. Only things don't turn out exactly as planned, and Steven Hemmer's the one who ends up dead. Too many things don't fit, and Claudia begins to wonder if there's more going on than meets the eye.

     As Claudia investigates, she's interrupted by other problems, though none involve her teenaged daughter who's off at horse camp. Instead, the mayor seems bent on getting her fired; her long-lost twin comes to town dredging up bad feelings, and her heart's set aflutter by a cowboy she runs into at the boot-maker's shop, all of which turns Claudia as prickly as a bad case of poison ivy. Maybe it's her constant unpleasantness that turned me off, or all her personal troubles that distracted from the investigation, watering down the urgency to a point where I didn't feel any at all.

     Though I do think Belgrave is a talented writer and encourage readers to pick up In The Spirit of Murder and Deadly Quiet, I just didn't particularly enjoy Deadly Associations. Somehow saying that makes me feel like Simon Cowell on "American Idol."

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