Ellen Hart. Minotaur Books, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-31749-2
A promising new relationship gives Jane Lawless, Minneapolis restaurateur and occasional sleuth, the courage to finally deal with the boxed-up possessions of her long-dead lover, Christine, in this shrewd and consistently entertaining whodunit. Real estate agent Christine's last clients belonged to the wealthy, eccentric Simoneau family, three of whose members were murdered just before her death. After interviewing the convicted killer, Jane is convinced of his innocence and even more curious about Christine's involvement. She finds more than a few skeletons in the closet when she seeks answers from the pair of bickering survivors still inhabiting the decaying Simoneau family mansion. Meanwhile, Jane offers her trust and support to a young photography student who's a doppelganger for Christine. The photographer's timely appearance is all too coincidental for the suspicious Cordelia, Jane's best friend, who adds her sharp tongue, audacious fashion sense and investigative assistance. Cordelia's sometimes overzealous protectiveness comes in handy when the long-hidden true killer surfaces. Hart (An Intimate Ghost, etc.) delivers vivid, off-the-beaten-track characters and enough clues and layers of intrigue to keep the pages turning.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2005