Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Sticky Fingers by Morgan Hunt
Publisher: Alyson Books
Tess Camillo has a shocking start to her day. She bends down to pick up something and finds a rattlesnake staring at her from under her bed. From there, Tess is drawn into the investigation of another lesbian who is murdered by snake bite and thus begins the first of the Tess Camillo mystery series.
At first Tess is concerned with finding out if she has anything in common with Belle Farby that would make someone want to kill them both. Could there be a serial lesbian killer with a fondness for reptiles? After Tess receives some threats herself, the search becomes more personal.
In the midst of this, Tess discovers a lump in her breast and has to deal with a mastectomy. Ironically, the murder investigation provides a distraction from her medical problems. Tess eventually learns she'll survive the cancer, but she may not be so lucky avoiding the murderer and other assorted characters she crosses paths with as she's threatened with knives, snakes and hypodermic needles.
Hunt has written a rather tame mystery with plenty of distracters. There's a psychic who keeps having "visions," a police officer who was once a girl friend, a depressed herpetologist who can't decide which sexual team she plays for, and a roommate/once lover who has decided to go hetero, but still turns Tess on.
Tess has to deal with New Age philosophy, Chinese herbalists, doctors who want to argue with her and two half senile dogs that are often in the way, but provide loving companionship. All of the characters keep the reader guessing as to who the real murderer is, though the final solution is somewhat predictable. Tess doesn't display skill in detective work as much as she stumbles into clues.
Considering the seriousness of breast cancer and the fact that it is such an issue for so many women, the reader might expect more attention to be paid to this event in Tess's life, but it doesn't happen. In fact, the breast surgery and its results are hardly mentioned. Tess's attitude seems to fall along the lines of: She's investigating this murder, living her life and, oh, by the way, having her left breast cut off tomorrow. Hunt's purpose may have been to say that such an experience doesn't stop life from going on, but the off hand manner which it is dealt with is still a little jarring.
It needs to be mentioned also that the publisher could have done a much better job of proofreading this book. There are a number of places where words are dropped or letters are left off. It doesn't detract from the story, but it is an unnecessary distraction to the careful reader.
Sticky Fingers is a typical first book in a series. A lot of time is spent introducing characters that will reappear and defining their relationships with the main character. The mystery doesn't seem as important as the characters and it's really just a vehicle to accomplish the real mission of the book. However, there is a mystery here and it provides an acceptable story with a few hours of diversion.