Blooming Murder

Jean Hager, Author
Jean Hager, Author Avon Books $5.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-380-77209-4
Hardcover - 339 pages - 978-0-7862-3215-4
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In this garden-variety launch of a new series, Tess Darcy inherits her aunt's old home and transforms it into a darling bed-and-breakfast called Iris House. But on her very first day, one of her guests turns up dead in a bed of irises. This is not good for business. All of the houseguests turn out to have a motive for murder and a flimsy alibi. Bumbling chief of police Desmond Butts can't figure out who's the criminal, so Tess, displaying all the spunkiness usual to girl detectives, sets about unmasking the villain. Unfortunately, the reader figures out whodunit long before Tess has a clue. She laboriously builds cases against each suspect, then does an about-face and argues on their behalf, which doesn't do much to catch the murderer but does manage to kill the suspense. Martha Stewart aficionados might enjoy the quirky charm in Hager's tender descriptions of the rooms in Iris House: all have decors that complement the color and qualities of a well-known iris, and each chamber is a tribute to Tess's addiction to Victorian tassles, gilt, brass and swags. In the Black Swan room, for example, ``the massively scaled bed was lacquered in the same reddish black color as were the huge bureau and marble-topped washstand . . .'' and so on and so forth. With so much wicker, oak, greenery and napery, there just isn't much room for Hager's sketchy paper-doll characters to lead believable, mystery-filled lives. (June)
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