Sunday, November 04, 2007

Accessory to Murder - Elaine Viets

Accessory to Murder
Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper
Elaine Viets


The very suburban Dorchester mall, home of Lord & Taylor, Talbot’s and a tearoom, has had a recent makeover of sorts. In order to attract a younger, hipper clientele, the mall recently opened a store called Gangsta Boyz Home. This store has definitely pulled in a younger, more urban crowd; but longtime shoppers complain that it has also attracted more of the criminal element. Case in point: as Josie Marcus and her friend, Alyce Bohannon complete their assigned shopping trip to designer Halley Hardwicke’s shop, just down the hall, a couple of kids pull an armed robbery at an athletic shoe store.

A short time later, Halley Hardwicke is shot to death during an apparent carjacking. The police immediately arrest a young black man, but quickly determine that he’s not the shooter. Halley’s death rocks Alyce to the core. Halley lived just down the street from Alyce, in a gated community. Things like violent crime and death aren’t supposed to happen to people who live in upscale safety. Days later, Alyce’s attorney husband, Jake, is arrested and charged as a conspirator in the murder.

The murder weapon was Jake’s gun; a gun he left in an unlocked car for weeks and now claims must have been stolen. The evidence points to a very personal relationship between Jake and Halley; but Alyce is determined to believe her husband’s denials. Josie isn’t so sure, but desperately wants to help her friend. Gossip spreads quickly, and both Alyce and Josie have heard the stories of Halley’s damaged marriage and her desire to move to New York to further her design career. But gossip and suspicion won’t be enough to clear Jake. Alyce and Josie need to find proof.

Most of this story takes place in a shopping mall and in upscale suburbia. If you’re thinking “Desperate Housewives,” you’re not far wrong. When Jake is arrested, the neighbors Alyce though of as friends desert her instantly. Josie, last seen in HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER, comes from much-reduced circumstances and knows what could await Alyce, stands by her. Josie is more than a little ambivalent about the people and wealth that reside in the gated community, and this kind of reverse-snobbism is a jarring note in her personality. At the same time, it makes her a character with human faults; someone who is realistic and relatable. The narrative centers on the friendship between the two women, but there are plenty of suspects to investigate. The scenes of Josie at her mystery shopping day job are entertaining, as always.

Rating: 6 ½
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22258-9 (paperback)


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