Murder by the Book

Pat Welch, Author Naiad Press $9.95 (241p) ISBN 978-0-941483-59-9
After a promising beginning, Welch's first novel loses momentum in a plot more cluttered than challenging. The book introduces PI Helen Black, a lesbian who lives in California, and, having only recently left the police force, has cop friends who can help her out. Comparisons with Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone are inescapable and unfortunate; Welch is not in Grafton's league. Here, a woman prominent in the Bay Area gay community asks Black to investigate a bank robbery that left two people dead: the night watchman and a robber. Circumstantial evidence points to the criminal involvement of the client's lover, Marita Spicer, a teller at the bank: the slain thief, a small-time dealer in drugs and porn, had helped jail Marita's / brother, a former dealer--and the murder weapon was found behind her desk. As Black delves into the robber's sordid past, she discovers that Marita was not the only employee to have known him. The sleuth's own relationshipwith her lover, Frieda, presents another side of her personality but is incidental to the mystery. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
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