Newsome (Muddy Mouth, 2016, etc.) pits Lia Anderson against a murderer in this latest installation of the Dog Park Mysteries.
Painter and seasoned mystery-solver Lia thinks she’s going to a choral concert with her boyfriend, Detective Peter Dourson, but she arrives to find the door to the venue locked. Once the crowd gains entry, they find the conductor, Hopewell Music Conservatory professor Geoffrey Lawrence, dead behind the organ: “Dr. Lawrence stared heavenward, eyes fixed and mouth agape in a macabre echo of the awestruck apostles in the stained glass window overhead.” Lawrence was a tyrannical teacher and a philanderer with no respect for the boundary between educators and students, and there is no shortage of potential suspects: Leander Marshall, his lover; Toby Grant, his favorite student; Constance DeVries, his ex-wife; Hannah Kleemeyer, the admin who knows too much. Peter can’t work the case; homicides in Cincinnati have been moved to a new unit, which happens to be staffed by incompetents. Even so, a curious informant seems to trust him with sensitive information. Lawrence’s will leaves everything to his three beloved dogs, which must have something to do with the killer’s motive...right? Civilian artist Lia, commissioned to paint a mural at Hopewell, may be just the person to untangle the nest of interpersonal relationships that obscures the truth of the murder. As usual, Newsome writes in a clever, energetic prose that buoys the reader while slowly dispensing clues. Here Hannah describes Dr. Lawrence in a way that manages to characterize them both: “He’s a malicious and whimsical little god, making and destroying careers at will.” The characters are well-drawn; the dialogue is sharp and funny; and the pacing is precise. The opening sequence—Newsome has to juggle a dozen different characters milling around a crime scene—is nothing short of masterful. This remains at its heart a series for dog lovers, but even mystery fans who are ambivalent about dogs will be caught up in Lia’s latest quest.
Another satisfying Lia Anderson mystery from a true talent of the genre.