Neighborhood Watch: A Tracer Family Mystery

Jeff Andrus, Author
Jeff Andrus, Author Scribner Book Company $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-684-19706-7
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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Weirdos abound, and one is a murderer, in this second adventure of the Tracer family (after Tracer, Inc.) of Monterey, Calif. John Tracer, lately laid off from his management job, is now detecting to pay the bills, to the chagrin of his wife, Chris, and the amusement of their children. Their next-door neighbor, Martin Riley, hires him to find a missing sister, Corinth. Since Martin believes that sis is really Ariel, Princess of Zartov, a city-state on Venus, Tracer is understandably leery of the case. But the guy comes up with a $5000 retainer, so Tracer leaves for rural Oregon, where Corinth was last seen. He soon discovers that the Riley clan includes a murdered uncle, two suspicious deaths in the prior generation and one way-too-close familial relationship. Meanwhile, Chris uses part of the retainer to plan a lavish Thanksgiving dinner that turns into the family reunion from hell and provides a big finish in which Tracer discovers, almost too late, that his young son Brad is in deep trouble. Andrus pushes his gimmick to the limit--combining family cuteness with sociopathic slaughter is tricky--but he generally makes it work, creating a credible mystery with plenty of good laughs. (Apr.)
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