The new novel by Russell (Deed So, 2010) is the first in a promised mystery series that takes place in the “wacky” world of biotech.
Embezzler Roger Chen did not single-handedly bring down entrepreneur Nola Billingsley’s dot-com business, but he did hasten its demise. Nola hardly wishes him well, but she never wanted to find his dead body in San Francisco’s Fort Funston—especially not with his severed head several feet away. On the bright side, her gruesome discovery brings her in closer contact with investigator Bob Harrison. But it also results in the inevitable clash as she insists on investigating the murder herself. As feisty, intelligent and well-respected Nola works as a consultant in the small world of biotechnology, she learns that Roger had his hands in many pies, or at least the funds of many start-ups. With both her romance with Harrison and her consulting business blossoming, Nola delves deeper into the incestuous world of biotech companies, learning that they are more closely linked than even their CEOs imagined; one hacks into the systems of several competitors. Nola is a fun, honest and intelligent 40-something heroine, with a live-in octogenarian mother and jealous short-haired pointer to keep her from getting bored—and from getting any privacy with her new lover. With just the right mix of action, intrigue, romance and the chick-lit distractions of cocktails, dinners and shopping, the book is a fun, fast-paced read. Russell is a skilled writer who doesn’t give herself enough credit when she calls her book “silly” in the acknowledgements. It may not be great literature, but it is an engrossing, cozy read, reminiscent of the many mysteries featuring spunky female amateur sleuths that the New York houses used to churn out. As proof of Russell’s writing abilities, she makes biotechnology almost comprehensible.
A fulfilling read for both mystery and chick-lit aficionados.