cover image Hunting the Witch

Hunting the Witch

Ellen Hart, Hart. St. Martin's Press, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20386-3

An amateur sleuth and daughter of a powerful criminal defense attorney, Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless survived her share of hard knocks in last year's Wicked Games, in which she was brutally attacked, hospitalized and nearly lost the love of her life. Now Jane is recuperating at her lover Julia's mountain cabin when she finds herself snared in the intrigue surrounding the murder of Jeffrey Chapel. Along with his tycoon father-in-law, Andrew Dove, Chapel is a board member of the exclusive Haymaker Club, a philanthropic venture that pools the resources of the city's most affluent citizens for large-scale charity projects. Before his murder, Chapel had loudly opposed the Club's plan to convert the classy but crumbling Winter Garden Hotel into an assisted-living community, much to Dove's chagrin. When Jane's friend Patricia Kastner, the flamboyantly gay entrepreneur who first proposed the project, finds Chapel's body at the bottom of the hotel's elevator shaft, she winds up first on the police roster of suspects. Patricia asks Jane to join on the Winter Garden project as a consultant, and, despite the fact that she is still in love with Julia, Jane's budding attraction to Patricia makes it hard to refuse. Meanwhile, her reputation for expert sleuthing lands Jane smack in the middle of the Chapel case when the deceased's widow, Brenna, hires her to find out if her husband was gay. Hart's work (which has received two Lambda awards) is notable for the characters' development from book to book. Here she integrates an exceptional subplot about Jane's ongoing attempts to patch up her relationship with Julia, who betrayed her trust in the previous book. (Sept.)