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CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE

Irene Marcuse, Author
Irene Marcuse, Author . Walker $23.95 (254p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3377-1
Reviewed on: 06/03/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 272 pages - 978-0-373-26464-3
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-7090-8078-7
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Agatha nominee Marcuse's third Anita Servi mystery (after 2001's Guilty Mind) works better as a straight novel than as a whodunit. Servi, an unemployed social worker, lucks into a new job near her home on Manhattan's Upper West Side only to find—on her first day of work—that her boss has taken her own life, apparently inspired by the Hemlock Society's famous guide, Final Exit. This disturbing incident proves to be the first of many. The retired cop who serves as chief of security for the apartment complex where Servi now works alerts her to an alarming increase in the death rate among the elderly residents over the past year. Suggestively, several of the deceased committed suicide using the Hemlock Society's methods. The plot enables Marcuse to explore, albeit with less depth and emotion than one might expect given the author's own professional background in eldercare, the morality of assisted suicide and the conflict between personal ethical standards and the needs of a loved one. It comes as little surprise that the deaths merit further inquiry, and there are too few characters with plausible motives to make the identity of the criminal a real puzzler. The amateurish nature of Servi's sleuthing makes the unresolved ending plausible, but still not satisfying. Her relationships with her husband and almost legally adopted nine-year-old daughter are warmly and convincingly portrayed, but any mystery whose climax seems borrowed from an episode of Murder, She Wrote is bound to disappoint. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (July 8)

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