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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review - To Hell in a Handbasket

This week I review a fellow Colorado resident's work.  I don't know how I managed to miss the first novel in this series, but here is the second book in this Colorado based series by Beth Groundwater.  Join us in Colorado for some murder and mayhem.

Author: Beth Groundwater

  November 2012 (Midnight Ink) 312 pgs

Series:  2nd in Claire Hanover Mystery

Sensuality:  mild foreplay mentions

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  Claire Hanover, part-time gift basket creator

Setting:  Modern Day, Breckenridge Colorado

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Claire Hanover, her husband, and her daughter Judy are in Breckenridge skiing.  Judy has been away in France for college and this is an opportunity for the family to spend time together.  Except Judy's new boyfriend, Nick Contino, and his family are also staying in Breckenridge.  The book opens with Nick's sister, Stephanie, joining the Hanovers on the slope.  The skiing turns tragic when Stephanie dies from hitting a tree, but Claire notices a few things that causes her to believe somebody purposely ran Stepanie into that tree.  

Because Stephanie had skied ahead of the rest, they did not see what happened.  But there was a hot dog snowboarder who is either the prime suspect or a witness.  Claire begins to ask around while Judy is comforting Nick and his mother.  Nick's father, Anthony, seems increasingly despondent over Stephanie's death.  Judy and Claire have struggles as mother and daughter, which only gets worse when Claire feels that Judy is in danger and is in protective mode.  But none of the Hanovers could have imagined the truth behind Stephanie's death and just how dangerous it will get for all of them.

I loved having a realistic middle-aged woman who is assertive and wrestling with an empty-nest for the main character.  She was well balanced between the aches and pains that come with an active person getting older and a gutsy woman who will go to any length for her family.  Claire's husband, Roger, is a good guy with a level head who balances Claire.  They make a cute couple stealing some romantic time.  Judy was my least liked character.  Occasionally she would act more like a huffy teen than a blossoming woman who attends college in Europe.  The breakout character was Leon, the crime boss Claire met previously (book one) and turns to for information on what she suspects is going on.  Leon is dangerous, but seems to respect Claire on some level.  I also liked Detective Owen Silverstone who is leading the investigation into Stephanie's death.  Claire and the detective manage to understand each other with only a few tense moments, which is a refreshing alternative to the common cop boyfriend or the adversary cop.

The Colorado high country and ski slopes and portrayed intimately and faithfully.  Beauty, cold, snow, and wilderness all give a good backdrop for the action.  Their is plenty of action with close calls, hair's breadth escapes, and chases that moved this to "amateur sleuth" status in my mind.

The plot has international implications, which gives it more of a dose of heightened drama than a typical murder mystery without a cop as the central character.  The investigation process moved along smoothly and kept my interest fully engaged.  The reader is doled out pieces and information along with Claire, and that doesn't allow for getting ahead of Claire much in figuring out the overall puzzle.  The investigation and revelations were nicely done, fostering the maximum reader investment by the climax.

The climax had its edge-of-your-seat moments that were well thought out and executed.  The wrap-up had its touching aspects and felt complete.   

This was a great adventure murder mystery that will be hard to top.  I am already looking forward to the next book in the series to see where Ms. Groundwater will take Claire and what she will throw at her. 

Ratings:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

This video is from January 2011, but gives a good overview of the setting for the mystery.

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Harvee said...

I have been meaning to read her mystery novels and must really get to finding some of them soon.

A.F. Heart said...

I was in the same situation, just never got to one of these until the publisher sent the book. I told myself it was just right for a December read and jumped in. So glad I did! If you like a little higher adventure level with your mystery, you should enjoy this book.

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