Susan Lombardi is a professor of education at a college in Connecticut. When her old friend
Elaine calls looking for favors, trouble is not usually far behind. This time it seems simple
enough—Shauna, one of Elaineís former students who is now a teacher herself and who helped
Susan in Deadmistress,
wants Susan to come into her class as an observer. †She wonít say why, just that strange things are
going on and she wants Susanís opinion, free of preconceptions. Susan finds some things that are
certainly weird and possibly even pointedly so, but itís tough to figure out how serious they are
until they figure out who is behind them. A misguided or socially inept juvenile student is one
thing, a fellow staff member with a message or obsession quite another. And thatís before murder
becomes part of the picture.
Meanwhile, strange things are making life at home unsettling too. Susanís husband Michael "Swash"
Buckler became a complete househusband when an inheritance and a knack for online investment made that
possible. Deeply satisfied working his magic in the kitchen and on his computer, he even buys gourmet
ingredients online rather than go outside to shop. Itís not agoraphobia; itís just an alternate
lifestyle that works for them. Then Susan arrives home one night to find the expected tantalizing
dinner smells, but no one hovering over them with a wooden spoon. Swash hasnít gone far, but the fact
that heís gone anywhere is a bit of a shock, even before she finds out why. Is this just a midlife
crisis sort of thing or a real change in their lives?
A big part of why I really like Carole Shmurakís Susan Lombardi mysteries is how real they feel.
Theyíre filled with unique but highly believable real world people having believably real world bickers
and connections and small traumas, even if the experiences aren't exactly commonplace. For example,
amongst the above capital P problems we have Susan and Elaineís experiences trying to find a new
restaurant to meet in, their not quite bickering over Susanís opinion of Elaineís current SO, and
a taste of Shaunaís teaching skills that makes me wish Iíd had her for a teacher.
Recommended as a short, fast, smoothly readable story that is blessedly sui generis and not
just another copycat of whatever the latest marketing recommendations are. Try it for yourself.