These eight short, peppy puzzlers by Australian mystery writer Rowe ( Grim Pickings ) feature bespectacled amateur detective Verity Birdwood, who solves knotty problems with ease and doesn't mind upstaging her policeman friend Det. Sgt. Dan Toby. In the opening tale, ``Forbidden Fruit,'' Birdie tells Dan about her first case, when, as a 14-year-old, she determined how a rich old man married to a young woman with a lover was killed at his annual neighborhood Christmas party. The closing title story describes how Birdie gathers clues and names the murderers of a department-store Santa and his photography assistant. In between, Birdie visits an isolated farm where a retarded hired hand has been accused of having strangled the farmer's wife (``Rabbit Killer'') and goes to the beach, not a favored spot, where she discovers that a fellow bather has succumbed (``Death Warmed Up''). Cleverly plotted and peopled by characters deftly, if lightly, sketched, the stories skimp on Birdie, who remains a puzzle. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992 Release date: 12/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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