Monday, December 18, 2017

Review of Don’t Mess With Mrs In-Between by Liz Evans (Orion, 2005)

Grace Smith is an independent PI working out of a collective office. When the owner of the office passes on a case to her it seems relatively straightforward. Barbra Delaney wants to leave her fortune to three strangers who she photographed leaving a local shop. Grace’s job is to find out the identity of the three lucky people and check out whether they are upstanding citizens. However, tracking down the three proves a little more tricky than anticipated, especially since all them have something to hide. What follows is a calamitous set of events, including Grace’s home and office being trashed and a nasty murder.

Don’t Mess With Mrs In-Between is the third book in the PI Grace Smith series. Grace is not the most talented PI, but she is feisty and persistent, and she likes to think she always gets her man (or at least they might fancy her). In this outing she tries to track down three people chosen at random by a rich heiress to become the beneficiaries of her will. Only the three are not keen to have someone snooping around their business and the heiress also seems to have something to hide. Progressively the case becomes more convoluted and dangerous. The tale fits into the tart noir genre popular at the end of the 1990s/early 2000s, a kind of edgy cozy with a strong-willed, independent female lead. While at times entertaining, the story unfolds somewhat haphazardly, often held together by thin or awkward plot devices and I just had difficulty believing a good chunk of it or in some of the characters, and the ending was weak. I know tart noir and crime with a comic twist often requires a suspension of disbelief, but it all felt too overly contrived without the payoff of being lost in the tale or belly laughs. And some things made little sense to me – for example, a PI being knocked from her bike and not even being curious about who hit her, let alone trying to track them down. The result was a book that felt a little insubstantial, driven by a central character with flaws, some humour, and a frail plot.

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