Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Trouble With Murder by Kate Sweeney

Publisher:                  Intaglio Publications

Kate Ryan strikes again. In more ways than one. Kate's insecurities about her relationship with Dr. Maggie Winfield drove her to take a three-week assignment, photographing mustangs in South Dakota. During that time she hasn't been in touch with anyone, not her sister, not her editor, not Maggie. Now she's home and, although her first stop is to visit Maggie and her Aunt Hannah, she's not sure of the welcome she'll get. The situation is difficult and then, as is typical with Kate, it gets more difficult when Maggie introduces her new friend Ellen. 

Kate was already going to retreat to her cabin on the lake and intended to invite Maggie, Hannah, and her sister to join her for a girl's weekend. Her confusion multiplies when she finds herself inviting Ellen also, a woman she is pretty sure intends to take Maggie away from her, that is, if Maggie does belong to her, which she's not sure of because Kate's afraid to say anything and Maggie is too mad to say anything and, well, maybe Kate isn't meant to have a relationship, but Aunt Hannah keeps prodding her to do something and, well…you begin to see how Kate's mind works…or doesn't work.

Strange things begin to happen as soon as Kate arrives at the cabin. There are signs of a possible break in and, when she's in the shed checking on some equipment, someone knocks her out. It's a testament to Kate's ability to frequently get hurt, especially by hitting her head, that her sister Teri, Maggie, and Hannah don't really seem surprised when they find her unconscious. They're used to patching her up by now. 

When things begin to disappear though and it seems someone is watching them from the woods, the situation turns more serious. A suspicious fire and a body washing up on the shore have Kate regretting that everyone she loves is with her. When a storm causes flooding and strands them at the lake, Kate becomes desperate to solve the mystery to protect the people who mean everything to her.
And then there's her relationship with Maggie. Can she find the courage to open herself up to the possibilities that Maggie is offering or will she drive her into another woman's arms?

Once again Kate Sweeney delivers a story full of interesting characters, led by poor hapless Kate Ryan. The reader doesn't know whether to laugh with Kate, cry with her or smack her on the side of the head and sometimes it's all three. Only Kate could get caught up in the passion of the moment, go to rip the blouse off of Maggie in her haste, and hit herself in the face with several of the buttons. Then go to pull her own shirt off and get it stuck on her head with her hands pinned in the air. 

Any reader who doesn't find herself laughing at parts of this book needs to make an appointment for a sense of humor transplant. Don’t mistake this for a comedy however. There is also a serious mystery in here and a strong sense of foreboding that hangs over parts of the book. The story is deftly worked and the solution to the crime doesn't become apparent until the end. Meanwhile, there are lots of suspects to be wary of.

This is the third mystery starring Kate Ryan and her friends. Unlike some series, these stories continue to get stronger. They are better developed with each book and it's clear that Sweeney's skill is improving with practice. It's pleasing to see an author working to make her writing stronger rather than coasting with what has already worked.

Anyone who likes a good mystery will like The Trouble With Murder. Anyone who likes a good romance will like it. Anyone who likes good characters, who have you caring about them and laughing and crying with them, will like this book. Does that leave anyone not to like it? Probably not.

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