With DARE TO DIE, Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand
Mystery series continues the misadventures of Annie and Max
Darling, the couple who lands in the dead center of yet another
murder. Nearing the end of an intense restoration of the Franklin
house, their antebellum project and soon-to-be new home, Max plans
a welcoming party. Broward’s Rock, his South Carolina Low
Country island home, will host a full evening of food, music and
drink for neighbors and friends. Undaunted by water damage to the
Franklin house remodel, Max rents the Harbor pavilion.
Anticipation of the gala at the Harbor elicits mixed reactions
among the guests who have been invited, close friends of the
Darlings. A well-to-do product of Broward’s Rock, Max has
gathered long-time “tennis club” associates into his
and Annie’s social circle. But a mysterious young woman
arrives this day. “She comes in the rain, alone, on a
Iris is a former island resident, long removed in time and place
from her past life as a teenager here. She has dealt with personal
demons --- drugs, alcohol and homelessness --- but returns to
cleanse the memory of a night when her dear friend, Jocelyn, dies.
She must discover the truth.
Meanwhile, Annie tends to business at her bookstore, Death on
Demand. She welcomes local mystery writer Emma Clyde, who has
developed a case of writer’s block. While sympathizing with
Emma’s dilemma, Annie’s plans change when her manager,
Ingrid, is called out of town for a family medical emergency.
Ingrid and Duane own Nightingale Courts, the local motel. Annie
offers that the Darlings stay at the Courts and tidy up cabins for
Ingrid’s guests. Besides, she and Max need a temporary home
until their new one is livable. Iris is the lone resident this
weekend at Nightingale Courts. Emma overhears the talk and perks up
at the thought of a girl on a bike who has just arrived, perhaps a
storyline for her new book. Emma goes to the motel, carries an
armful of towels to Iris’s room on pretense of being a maid.
Snooping for her book’s plot seems a normal occurrence.
However, she takes a nasty fall and lands in the hospital with
In the course of housekeeping at Nightingale Courts, Annie
visits with the shy Iris, lends her a suit for a swim and invites
her to their party that evening. She is certain that Iris will
renew old acquaintances among the good friends who will attend.
Finally, party time arrives, punctuated by a sinister event:
Iris’s murder in the woods at the Pavilion’s edge.
Now the Darlings trust no one, especially none of the couples
they’ve befriended. These friends comprised the tight group
as teens who ran with Iris, her pal Jocelyn, and Jocelyn’s
brother. Annie promises not to interfere with the local
investigation, but breaks that vow when she and Max are victims of
arson at the motel. Shaken, with Max’s feet burned,
Annie’s mission focuses on their attacker.
Annie assists Billy, the local sheriff, in finding out where
Fran, Buck, Russell, Liz and Cara were at the time Iris
disappeared. Their whereabouts will likely explain Jocelyn’s
untimely death years before. Annie believes the two are
Carolyn Hart’s newest story fulfills a weekend’s
entertainment. My empathy, however, waned with Annie’s
stubbornness. Previous Death on Demand books evened the
pair’s involvement, which I found more desirable. Max is
likable in DARE TO DIE, but Annie overshadows him. He is confined
to a wheelchair during the latter chapters, a circumstance that
might have been altered. Sleuthing in the formula of “Murder,
She Wrote” tends to supposition rather than action.
Like earlier books in the series, DARE TO DIE follows the antics
of a likable couple who solves mysteries in their secluded island
home. The Death on Demand bookstore, as a setting element,
completes the spice.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 29, 2010