and Annie Darling are at it again, plunging into the middle of a
murder scene, in DEATH WALKED IN, Carolyn Hart’s 18th
Death on Demand mystery.
The curious couple has backed away from scandal in the tiny island
community where they live and work. They have poured their energies
into the remodeling of a historic mansion, an antebellum house
known as the Franklin House. Restoring the dilapidated place has
been a welcome distraction from a murder investigation the previous
year, when Max was the key suspect. However, he has been cleared
and released and keeps a low profile while working on their new
home. Busy with the end of remodeling in sight, Max’s
business, Confidential Commissions, is slighted. Being accused of
murder puts a damper on an investigative operator.
Annie’s business, on the other hand, has thrived. Her Death
on Demand bookstore is a popular choice for both vacationers and
permanent residents of Broward’s Rock. Local mystery author
Henny Brawley is a regular customer, with often too much advice.
But her theory has merit in solving the newest island murder
Max is preoccupied with the home refurbishment and ignores a phone
call from a woman who sounds desperate. Apologetically, the caller
indicates she has hidden something in the Franklin House, a short
distance from her residence. Unable to contact Max, his secretary
passes the word to Annie. Arriving at Gwen Jamison’s house,
Annie enters when the doorbell is unanswered and finds the woman
dying from a gunshot wound. Gwen’s last words point to a clue
that will unravel the mystery of her death and the whereabouts of a
stolen coin collection.
Gwen has worked as a housekeeper for Geoff Grant for years.
Valuable Double Eagle gold coins are missing from his collection.
Annie’s quick mind focuses on the dead woman as either a
willing accomplice or an innocent victim of the theft scenario.
Robert, Gwen’s youngest son, becomes the prime suspect when
he cannot account for his whereabouts prior to the crime. His past
history includes minor brushes with the law, no steady job and a
reputation for picking the wrong friends.
The Darlings leap headfirst into the mystery foray. A witness to
Robert being informed of his mother’s death, Max is convinced
of the young man’s innocence. Hal Porter and Max see a figure
fleeing from the Franklin House, the possible thief and murderer.
Author Carolyn Hart utilizes the best tricks of an Agatha
Christie-type solution to the crime. Speculation is rampant on the
island concerning the assailant’s identity. The haughty but
spoiled Grant siblings each have motive but provide ready alibis.
Grant’s wife, Rhoda, is not on the island at the time of the
DEATH WALKED IN is full of much speculation and minimal action,
best classified as a “whodunit” but not a thriller. The
convenient skepticism of the local police authority brings in
automatic conflict between the Darlings and the magistrate. Max
would prefer little contact with the police due to his unpleasant
experience a year earlier. Scene breaks in each chapter are printed
in bold font, an easy format to break from one character’s
involvement to another. The sole glitch to an easy world flow is
overuse of an occasional verb.
For Hart’s fans, DEATH WALKED IN will entertain and give them
a thirst for more of the Darlings’ mystery adventures.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 29, 2010