A thoroughly entertaining, lighthearted murder mystery.

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THE CHA-CHA BABES OF PELICAN WAY

Metzman (The Hungry Heart, 2012) offers a mystery novel about a trio of women attempting to solve a string of murders in a Florida retirement community for people 55 and older.

When 65-year-old Celia, a resident of Boca Pelicano Palms in Florida, gets a call in the middle of the night from her friend and neighbor Marcy, also 65, about a vaguely described “big problem,” she wakes their 69-year-old mutual friend Deb, and heads over to help. Celia would do anything for Marcy or Deb—they recently talked her out of a suicide attempt, after all—but she doesn’t yet realize how her loyalty will be tested. When Celia and Deb arrive at the office of Melvin Onstader, the retirement community’s board president, they discover a nude, struggling Marcy “prone on the desktop buried up to her neck under….Melvin’s overweight, blubbery frame.” In order to protect Marcy—who’s only one strike away from eviction—they smuggle Melvin’s body back to his apartment. There, Celia discovers mysterious pills that point to foul play. Later, Melvin’s ex-wife, Edith, who succeeds him as board president, realizes something is amiss about his demise, and she blames Marcy. Then other community residents start dying under mysterious circumstances. Celia, widowed three years ago and only just coming into her own after a bad marriage and a lifetime of meekness, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. However, she’ll have to keep it all a secret from her 33-year-old daughter, Allison, who’s just moved in with her after leaving her husband. Celia finds out that all the women around her need something, whether it’s a new man or a 50-year-old list of cha-cha dance rules. Metzman writes with humor and a sharp eye for characterization, as when she describes how Deb’s “rheumatoid arthritis…affected every joint and muscle in her body, except for her acerbic tongue.” The book is a pleasing blend of camp and procedural mystery, playing up the geriatric nature of the setting while also taking the concerns and passions of Celia and her peers seriously. Overall, Metzman has crafted a compelling and surprising whodunit whose plot likely won’t end up where readers expect. In the end, however, it’s largely a character-driven affair, and readers will enjoy the main trio’s moments of levity—as when they smoke marijuana in Marcy’s apartment or pick up men at Fritzy’s Rendezvous—as much as the twists of the investigation. The author artfully constructs each of these characters, giving them backstories full of regret and frustration that lend literary weight to their sometimes-comical present. Celia moved to Florida to spend her golden years in paradise, but the author shows how it now provides her an opportunity to look back upon her entire life: to correct mistakes, recognize injustices, and forgive her younger self for not always having enough strength. It turns out that retirement provides plenty of opportunities to turn things around—and to solve a few murders as well.

A thoroughly entertaining, lighthearted murder mystery.

Pub Date: June 21, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 451

Publisher: Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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