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21 October 2014

Large paperback, published The Story Plant, April 2014. second in the Coleman and Dianah Green Mysteries.
Again a good well-written mystery, with what is becoming a trademark for this writer, the ability to trickle interesting information on the art world into and throughout the book without ungainly infodumps, or items so arcane that the ordinary non-artistic reader won’t understand them. In this book Coleman is expanding her art magazine domain by a second magazine. That’s the good side, on the bad side is a major firm that wants to buy both magazines from her when Coleman doesn’t want to sell. The major firm isn’t taking no for an answer and Coleman knows that if she continues to hold out, the dirty tricks come next because what Colossus wants, Colossus gets. None of this is helped by an old friend who’d like to be a lot more and who also isn’t taking no for an answer. Despite Coleman’s having explained that she isn’t interested, isn’t interested, isnt…
Then there’s her cousin Dinah who’s having trouble making ends meet with her art gallery, however the contract she’s signed, to provide attractive prints for the walls across several floors of a large firm could save her if DDD&W pay up, and if some of the very peculiar things going on there don’t impinge on the contract too far. Except that they do when Dinah finds a body there and becomes chief suspect. The police arrive to investigate led by an extremely unpleasant detective who leaps to a number of conclusions and is both threatening and intimidating. Wound through the murder investigation is the possible disappearance of a large number of very valuable artworks from DDD&W, and the possibility that someone in the firm is responsible and that the murder may be connected to that.
Again I enjoyed this book, but less so than the previous, Restrike. Last time the cousins dealt with most of their problems themselves. This time they are a little too supported by a husband and his host of influential friends who do most of the detective work, and Coleman’s brother, who solves her pressing personal problem. Hang on, Dinah and Coleman are supposed to be the ‘detectives,’ although this aspect may not bother other readers the way it bothered me. As for Detective Harrison, I found him overblown and unlikely, but then I come from a small country where police behaving that way went out back in the last century. Rob, a private detective who is in love with Coleman is initially portrayed as a professional, a friend of the cousins and Dinah’s husband, and an ex-polieman, but over and over he drops the ball on his investigations as he assists them, behaving as a complete amateur. I feel that this was unlikely and inserted as a deus ex machina, a pity as it detracted from the verisimititude. Nor did I find the portrayal of one of the movers and shakers at DDD&W, that convincing. He is initially depicted as a man who dislikes Dinah and Coleman, and whom they heartily distrust and dislike in turn. But in an unbrupt and unrealistic turnaround, at the end of the book it appears that he is really a nice man, doing his best to cope with his firm’s vagarities, and he’s asking Coleman out to dinner. And that rang with the dull clanking of a cracked bell with me. This second in the series is like the curate’s egg, very good in parts, and as an allover effort, quite readable. But I plan to buy the third in the series which is just out, and if that isn’t better, I won’t be buying a fourth and someone else may end up with books two and three. I like the main characters and the series theme a lot and hope the next book is an improvement but there’s a limit beyond which I won’t perservere – or pay – and two not-so-good books is a row is it. So, I live in hopes…

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