A debut mystery mixes murder and betrayal with a suspicious international enterprise.
Thirty-six-year-old Rae Sullivan, happily married to successful architect Peter, runs a small garden and home decor shop with her longtime friend Thalia Holcombe in the small town of San Anselmo, 20 miles north of San Francisco. When Thalia returns from a European shopping trip, she shows Rae a threatening note she received in Paris. Someone is wise to the affair she has been having with handsome French importer/exporter Etienne Duchamp. Thalia is convinced the note was written by Etienne’s assistant, Marcel. Several weeks later, Etienne; his family; his office manager, Jerome; and Marcel arrive in San Francisco and, surprisingly, are guests at a party for Thalia’s husband, Garrett. Later, Thalia is shot to death in Golden Gate Park, and Rae is determined to prove that Marcel is the killer. The police are less than impressed with her theories and their investigation appears to have stalled. Eventually, Rae decides it is up to her to follow some intriguing bread crumbs from abroad; she impulsively heads to Paris, where an unexpected subplot puts her in mortal danger. The first-person narration is peppered with lovely images of Marin County, Paris, and even the eclectic assortment of items decorating the small backyard patio attached to Rae’s store: “Chairs, obelisks, and other merchandise were sprinkled among them, creating a setting that invited customers to sit and linger on warm days. Morning glories climbed a trellis in a wide metal planter that was previously a Victorian laundry tub.” In Monte’s promising first novel, the time spent on descriptions offers soothing respite from the ominous warning lights of the plot twists. The author effectively fills out the dimensions of Rae’s character by crafting evocative visuals of her personality. In addition, the skillfully scripted dialogue is often humorous and edgy in this suspenseful tale.
Enough tangents to keep readers guessing, with a strong female protagonist who finally comes into her own.