Gripp (Pursuit of the Frog Prince, 2013), a former teacher and Florida Panhandle resident, presents the vibrant sequel to her debut mystery novel.
After skillfully foiling a malevolent kidnapping plot, amiable, “frog-eyed” detective Ben Burrows again finds himself ensuring the safety of the tony enclave of Amherst, New York. It’s Christmas night, and he’s assigned to investigate the death of Alice Beck, who has tragically fallen down the stairs in her home. Or was she pushed? Burrows immediately suspects Alice’s “cocky smart” husband, John, a smarmy stockbroker who he believes initiated a blundered kidnapping attempt on his wife some six months earlier. In that crime, local Amherst resident Peggy Roberts was mistakenly kidnapped instead of Alice by John’s confused henchmen. This time, Burrows believes John ensured the seamless murder of his wife. Gripp capably provides ample back story on the first botched crime attempt and thickens the plot as Burrows scavenges for sufficient evidence to convict John. Meanwhile, Peggy’s storyline satisfyingly continues on as she finds herself enamored with Seth, the romantically pessimistic half brother of one of her former kidnappers. As Burrows’ investigation of John intensifies with expected (and unexpected) developments, a few hard-won resolutions quell some interfamilial melodrama, and another corpse pops up, placing glamorous heiress and John’s confidante, Victoria Reynolds, in grave danger and in need of extra bodyguard protection...with romantic perks. All these events become enmeshed in the long-held animosity of two childhood friends, Cal and Sal, who were exiled to Ohio from their homes 26 years earlier for the attempted murder of one of their cousins. Sal seeks answers from Gwennie Damico, the love of his life who scorned him all those years ago; they rekindle their romance, yet both seem bent on settling the score with Sal’s family. Merging revenge, murder and steamy romance, Gripp’s narrative excels in character development but suffers from an excess of serpentine subplots. Thankfully, Gripp’s aptly named mystery is anchored by an engaging, honorable lead detective whom readers will surely find heroically endearing.
A harmless, sprightly whodunit featuring a captivating gumshoe.