Ever since I was a kid picking up an old detective novel for the first time, I’ve enjoyed that particular tone that some murder mysteries or romantic suspenses get of the world-weary mixed with the wry humor in that first person perspective as the detective pushes on even when he/she doesn’t seem to stand a chance at beating the bad guy(s). This particularly story has that feel to it and I enjoyed tagging along while Marta Hjelm, the Private Investigator, followed the clues through all their twists to a rather surprising end. I thought I was so clever because I figured out whodunnit and even some of the why, but it still managed to shock me.
The story begins when Marta is called by her ex-husband and requested to meet with another loser, her ex-boss, regarding a case involving the ex-boss, Ryan’s advertising company. Marta isn’t interested in helping either of them out, but she needs the money and something to occupy her time especially since her boyfriend has forced a separation on her to make her think about her future as a detective.
The case both repels and interests Marta when she learns that her ex, Terry, represents a tobacco company that has designed cigarettes that will appeal to young people and Ryan’s ad company are the ones working on the launch campaign. Somebody doesn’t seem to want the plans to go through and started playing hardball to get their point across.
After Marta starts the case, she learns there are no lack of suspects or motives. The danger starts to escalate from threatening emails and poisoned food to more dangerous things like tampered brake-lines on a company car. Then things really go south when a murder takes place. Marta has to start working fast now that the killer has set his/her sights on Marta.
The plot was pretty tight incorporating both action and just good old questioning and thinking. There were plenty motives and twists in the plot to make you think almost everyone could have done it by the end.
As I mentioned before, I enjoyed the tone of the story, but the background was equally enjoyable. I love that the story was flavored with local color- the language, locale and atmosphere of the Twin Cities area. You betcha!
Now the characters are all secondary behind Marta. Sometimes that’s a risky thing having just the one lead because, in a sense, Marta is the story. If she didn’t work than the story doesn’t work. Fortunately, I loved Marta. Hooray for an ordinary heroine with ordinary problems and ordinary abilities with that determined streak to get to the answers. The secondary characters all served their purpose well in the story and there was plenty of info about them to make me suspicious of them all at one point.
I can definitely recommend this one to those who are looking for a good armchair cozy mystery with a well written plot to keep you guessing and a detective heroine that earns your respect.
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