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Death on a Casual Friday

by Mel Odom
- Scotia MacKinnion works as a private investigator on San Juan Island between Washington State and Vancouver British Columbia. In the past, she's been a homicide detective for five years with the San Diego Police Department, so she knows the moves and she has the chops. Her infield team consists of Zelda Jones, a web site designer and graphic artist who does computer research for her, Ben Carey, a homicide detective in Berkeley who looks into police matters, and Jared Saperstein, a news reporter with a talent for hacking. Elyse Montenegro tries to hire Scotia to dissuade a stalker she insists is following her around, but Scotia isn't too certain she wants the case. Later, after having Zelda run the license plate Elyse gave her and turning up the fact that it belongs to a rental vehicle leased by a man that might be a private investigator himself, Scotia's interest rises. Only a short while later, Elyse's friend Campbell Sawyer is run off the road while driving Elyse's car. Elyse returns to Scotia's office, and this time she tells Scotia of her husband's murder. Julio Montenegro was a lawyer who worked with Latin Americans who had immigration problems or other legal entanglements. But Julio had another side to him as well: he also wrote an inflammatory column regarding United States-Mexico relations that offended major players in financial circles and political circles on both sides of the border. In addition, Julio was a player and had a mistress on the side. As if the case isn't complicated enough, Scotia discovers that other Hispanic attorneys have been murdered lately, and she has to give some thought to whether or not she's on the trail of a serial killer.

DEATH ON A CASUAL FRIDAY is author Sharon Duncan's first novel, but a second Scotia MacKinnion novel, A DEEP BLUE FAREWELL, is already on the shelves. Before turning to full time writing, the author worked with linguistics and statistics. She is also an avid sailor.

Scotia MacKinnion is an engaging heroine. She has a very full, very real life in addition to her work as a private investigator. Her relationship with her mother-Jewel Moon, a 1960s activist and former flower child-is strained. Scotia also has a college-aged daughter living out of the home who, when left to her own devices, tends to fall into her grandmother's orbit a little too much for Scotia's comfort. Nick Anastazi, a maritime lawyer, is her lover and gets somewhat too involved in his cases and his own teenage daughter to be around as much as Scotia would want. Scotia's world is realized very completely and with lots of details that make the reader feel as though he or she is walking at Scotia's side through Friday Harbor, San Juan. Zelda and Scotia's gossip feels real, and when the women start in talking about people the reader doesn't know-yet-the ears immediately start prick up and wait for the dish to begin. The mystery is ably plotted and gives Scotia plenty to do while tracking down suspects and turning up more information on the murder victim than she'd wanted. The story also gives the author room to discuss the political issues that are obviously important to her.

Sharon Duncan's light romp will be a fun read for cozy lovers and mystery fans who like their action relatively bloodless and at a tolerable adrenaline level. Readers of Carolyn G. Hart and Dorothy Cannell should have a new series to enjoy.

A Deep Blue Farewell

by Harriet Klausner - Former police office turned private detective Scotia Mackinnon lives and practices in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The island's elected officials have allowed outdoor clothing manufacturer On The Edge to do a photo shoot at American Camp, a nature preserve. One of the people associated with the shoot M.J. Carlyle has hired Scotia to find out what happened to his sister, Tina Breckenridge an experienced sailor, who mysteriously disappeared in the San Juan archipelago.

All her inquires come to naught. Soon Scotia's client is killed with the sheriff ruling it an accident. Tina's partner also meets with misfortune winding up in the hospital. While this is going on, Scotia receives anonymously threatening e-mails warning her to back off the case. The e-mails and the death of M.J. make the feisty detective need to find some answers no matter the cost to herself.

Putting Scotia Mackinnon on the case is a sure fire guarantee that she will go the extra mile to see justice occurs. Sharon Duncan has created a clever and feisty protagonist who knows how to cope with a client but is sometimes at a loss with how to relate with her hippie mother and her college age daughter. The mystery comes from today's headlines making it believable and realistic, but mostly entertaining.

The Lavender Butterfly Murders

Scotia is a very real person. She is not some fabulously wealthy super-intellect. Nor is she an expert in martial arts or hacking into computers or whatever. She is intellectually curious, a pretty good sailor, and a very independent person out to make a life for herself in the San Juan Islands. Just the sort of person you would expect to find living on her sailboat in Friday Harbor. And she has some great stories to tell through the pen of Sharon Duncan...



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