From Publishers Weekly
In this 12th Death on Demand adventure, Anthony and Agatha award-winner Hart uses a couple of reliable mystery devices to serve up a story as entertaining as any in this deservedly popular series. The first of these is the perennial fake psychic, here handsome charmer Emory Swanson, who comes to Broward's Rock Island to establish the Evermore Foundation, where individualsDparticularly rich, older womenDcan get in touch with their dearly departed. One of Swanson's unsuspecting devot es is retired movie star Marguerite Dumaney. She's still glamorous, still imperious, and ready to sign over her fortune to the foundation, though her many needy relatives have other ideas for her money. While any of them might be desperate enough to kill Marguerite, it's Happy, her aptly named sister, who is murdered. Annie Darling, proprietor of the Death on Demand Mystery Book Store, enters the picture when her long-absent father, who turns out to be Happy's ex-husband, appears. Annie, ably assisted by husband Max, has to clear her father and stepsister of suspicion, while she simultaneously searches for the real culprit. The evidence surrounding a second murder points to the man they all love to hate: Swanson. Or is he too obvious? Another classic story twist resolves matters in a fully satisfying finale. Hart, who's also the author of the Henrie O series (Death in Paradise, etc.), knits a tidy plot, though the cute descriptions of Max and Annie's cat, Agatha, may be too cloying for some. The insider view of the mystery bookstore world remains a special draw. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful: Pretty good entry in this series, January 27, 2002 Reviewer: Shelley McKibbon from Dallas, Texas USA After having read -- and been annoyed by -- three previous entries in this series, I had sworn I'd never read another Death On Demand mystery. But I was intrigued enough by some of the reviews of this book to give it a whirl. And it is in many ways much, much better than some of the other Carolyn Hart books I've tried. I have never felt like I was being given a chance to really KNOW the sleuths, Annie and Max. In previous books, the author kept stepping between me and them and insisting on how I should think -- "Annie is like THIS. Max is like THAT." In the end, I was told so much that I should have been shown, that I felt nothing for the sleuths at all. Hart still interferes, insisting on character traits she should be demonstrating, and there is far too much about what Max and Annie look like, as opposed to what they are like. But Annie's concern for a teenage girl comes through pretty well, and I found myself believing it. Likewise, her reluctant feelings for her estranged father eventually became believable when Hart stopped insisting. I didn't buy the estranged father's excuses for why he'd been gone so long any more than some other reviewers have. If you really, really want to know where your child is, and only one person on earth can help you, you go to that person and make a nuisance of yourself. You don't phone and write a few times and then give up. This element of the plot was thin. Max's behaviour ("You think YOUR dad was bad? Let me tell you about MINE!") is insensitive, and I would have been more convinced if the lovebirds had had a knock-down fight over it, with a suitable reconciliation later. Hart, however, does not seem interested in delving very deeply into this relationship, and to that extent she leaves her sleuths as two pretty, but rather empty, shells. Max's mother, on the other hand, is a hoot in this novel. And I usually agree with readers who find her irritating and unbelievable beyond words. I don't quite see why Annie, who knows Laurel is nuts, is suddenly so worried about her. And when a minor character frets that seances and such "aren't God's will," I wasn't convinced by Hart's pious disclaimer that this minor character represented "true goodness," and would be ignored at peril. I don't like people telling me what is and isn't "God's will." It too often leads to boycotts of libraries that carry books about little English wizards, and protesters explaining why God hates various sexual orientations. Hart's tendency to sermonize isn't pronounced in this novel, but that one jarred. There are fewer extraneous references to every mystery ever written in this than in most of the "Death On Demand" novels, which is a relief. Annie's first scene features lists of other books and authors, but then Hart gets this urge under control for most of the story and mainly sticks to the point. The real problem with this mystery is, unfortunately, the mystery itself. Hart introduces the potential victims and suspects in the first chapter, then ignores most of them in favour of Annie and her personal life for the next hundred or so pages. Which means that by the time someone is finally offed (about halfway through the book) I had forgotten who these people were -- and the explanation of their relationships was confusing. At one point, it sounds as if everyone is siblings. Then we see that some are one character's stepchildren. Then the stepmother's sister sounds as if she's actually a sibling of the stepchildren... It was confusing. And since she doesn't spend any time developing these characters, it was hard to care who did it or why. There is an obvious, overly-clever solution to the mystery, and that turns out to be it. Hart also needs to learn a little more about what personal information is and isn't freely available on the Internet, because she has a public librarian performing feats of spying the CIA might envy. As a librarian, I am dubious. And doing things the easy way like this doesn't help the book -- the sleuths don't need to be clever or to interview the suspects, they only need a magical computer. At one point, Annie muses that conversation is a better way of gatherin information than clicking a mouse. If only Hart really believed that, it would have improved her subplot. (Hart has a habit in this book of writing in unexplained technical miracles -- at one point, someone "rigged the lights' so they'd go out at a crucial juncture. As far as I can find, we are never told HOW.) Overall, better-written than most of this series, and with more humanity. A middling, but reasonably enjoyable, read.