Sugar Plum Dead

Carolyn Hart, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (340p) ISBN 978-0-380-97772-7
In this 12th Death on Demand adventure, Anthony and Agatha award-winner Hart uses a couple of reliable mystery devices to serve up a story as entertaining as any in this deservedly popular series. The first of these is the perennial fake psychic, here handsome charmer Emory Swanson, who comes to Broward's Rock Island to establish the Evermore Foundation, where individualsDparticularly rich, older womenDcan get in touch with their dearly departed. One of Swanson's unsuspecting devot es is retired movie star Marguerite Dumaney. She's still glamorous, still imperious, and ready to sign over her fortune to the foundation, though her many needy relatives have other ideas for her money. While any of them might be desperate enough to kill Marguerite, it's Happy, her aptly named sister, who is murdered. Annie Darling, proprietor of the Death on Demand Mystery Book Store, enters the picture when her long-absent father, who turns out to be Happy's ex-husband, appears. Annie, ably assisted by husband Max, has to clear her father and stepsister of suspicion, while she simultaneously searches for the real culprit. The evidence surrounding a second murder points to the man they all love to hate: Swanson. Or is he too obvious? Another classic story twist resolves matters in a fully satisfying finale. Hart, who's also the author of the Henrie O series (Death in Paradise, etc.), knits a tidy plot, though the cute descriptions of Max and Annie's cat, Agatha, may be too cloying for some. The insider view of the mystery bookstore world remains a special draw. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/2000
Release date: 11/01/2000
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