HOT ON THE TRAIL

Jane Isenberg, Author . Avon $6.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-057751-3

Isenberg's latest Bel Barrett mystery glows with heart, humor and hot flashes. One winter night, elderly pigeon fancier Dominic Tomaselli falls off a Hoboken roof and dies of exposure. His daughter suspects foul play and calls in Professor Bel Barrett, who teaches the senior memoir class Dominic attended. An inveterate sleuth, Bel welcomes distraction from the chagrins of menopause and the challenge of planning a wedding (to longtime live-in love Sol) that will accommodate her army of friends and relatives without breaking the bank. Drawing on the class's memoirs and the help of her staunch female pals, Bel slowly untangles the truth about Dom's death—and gets happily wed as well. Her investigation is low-key at best (strategy: chat with suspects and sources constantly, preferably over snacks), but the book's sharp-eyed energy more than compensates for the mystery's mildness. Beautifully drawn, Bel tackles everything from meddlesome kids to stress incontinence with zesty honesty. Thoughtful references to the human cost of urban gentrification, the complexities of elder care and the lingering aftermath of 9/11 anchor her playful ruminations; underneath its comedy, the book is a surprisingly nuanced look at the way individual lives and communities survive difficult transitions. Agent, Laura Peterson (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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