APPEARANCES CAN DEFINITELY BE DECEIVING
Vera Cassity is a piece of work. Born into poverty, she is now a wealthy matron, married to a younger man who worked hard to make his fortune. Jealous of anyone with older or wealthier standing, she is a vicious and overbearing witch. And when Charlie Harris refuses, by provisions of contract law, to allow Vera access to the private family documents of the Ducote family housed in the archive section of the university library, Vera goes off the rails.
She threatens to use her influence to get Charlie fired. She also threatens to call animal control against Diesel and to rescind the scholarship she funded for Charlie’s boarder, Justin. Although Charlie tells no one of her threats, the Ducote sisters find out and put a stop to her by way of her husband’s control of the purse strings. Refusing to be thwarted, Vera goes after Charlie through his girlfriend. She threatens to shut down Helen Louise’s pastry shop with innuendos of tainted food. And she tries to destroy the bakery financially by cancelling Helen Louise’s contract to cater a charity gala occurring in a few days.
And then there appears to be some ancient history between Vera and Charlie’s housekeeper, Azalea Berry. Apparently, it must be some serious history because, even though Azalea is a strict and sensible older woman, Charlie has never seen her express such hatred – ever.
Oh, yes – Vera Cassity is going to die. And there will be no dearth of suspects, no lack of people who despise her, and no lack of people who have publically stated that she has to be stopped. When Azalea witnesses the murder and is trapped in a back stairwell with the body, Kanesha Berry cannot serve as homicide investigator for the case. So to protect her mother, she swallows her pride and asks Charlie to investigate. And since the murder occurred in their mansion during the charity gala, the Ducote sisters use their social standing and wealth to open doors for Charlie that he might not have had access to otherwise.
While this book fits the cozy genre, it is not one of those silly pieces of fluff with inept or unqualified characters stumbling about where they really shouldn’t. And, while there is no serial killer loose and we are not waiting for another body to fall, there are still a lot of influential people who hated this woman. Therefore, Charlie’s investigation must, at all times, be a politically and socially correct endeavor, which creates psychological tension for both Charlie and the reader.
However, to its detriment and compared to the previous entries in the series, this book is quite slow. It takes almost half the book to get to the murder. And the author uses a deus ex machina contrivance to direct Charlie’s investigation, a clue provided by the deceased herself but provided in a manner that is totally unbelievable when compared with her previous actions. And without this device, one-third of the book would not have existed.
In the end, this book is more about family than it is about death. It is more about pride than it is about hatred. And it is more about secrets and deceptions and absolute desperation than it is about murder. And, page-by-page, scene after scene, this book speaks clearly to the old adage that “Appearances can be deceiving.”
Cover Art from Goodreads