Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Palette for Murder (An Aurora Anderson Mystery #3)

Author:  Sybil Johnson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635111446; 97891635111415
Henery Press
268 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99
January 31, 2017

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A killer heat wave settles over Seagull Lane...Summer's sizzling in Vista Beach, the home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson.  The abnormally high temperatures are hard on everyone in the quiet Los Angeles county beach community, especially the city's homeless population.  Residents are doing everything they can to stay cool, including leaving windows open to catch the faintest breeze.  Not the best idea when a string of burglaries is plaguing nearby towns.  Still, Rory doesn't expect to find her neighbor's body just a few doors down.  When suspicion falls on a friend and fellow painter, Rory must discover the truth before the police paint the wrong picture and send her friend away permanently.

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Rory Anderson is a computer programmer and artist who works from home and lives in Vista Beach, California.  Before heading out for the day with her friend Liz Dawson, she's gathered a trash bag of recycling for a homeless friend, Kit, so she and Liz head to the pier to find him.  They don't immediately find him but do find his dog Buddy who leads them to an injured Kit under a pier.  Discovering someone hit him over the head, he is sent to the hospital while Liz finds a temporary home for Buddy and Rory decides to try and find out who injured him.

Luckily, her mother agrees to keep Kit's bicycle and belongings at her store, but when Rory arrives she finds another store owner arguing with her mother Arika.  Willow Bingen is overbearing, opinionated, and makes some pointed remarks about the homeless before she finally leaves.  Rory tells Arika the only information she has as to who injured Kit is the word "Zoe" and a picture she found in his backpack.  

Later that evening, Rory is at the home of Dawn, another friend who also works part time at Arika's store when she's not teaching painting.  Rory and Dawn are testing a new software program for Dawn's online classes.  While they're testing, someone arrives at Dawn's home and Rory can hear them arguing.  It isn't long before she discovers the intruder is Willow; but after she leaves an upset Dawn refuses to speak of it.  Also after leaving Dawn's home she finds out that Kit left the hospital but isn't able to locate him.

The next day she finds Willow's cat Sekhmet's collar on her lawn - it turns out the cat has a regular habit of escaping the device - and goes to return it.  When she arrives at Willow's home, the door is ajar and even though she senses something is off, she enters the home.  What she finds is the body of Willow with a knife in her chest.

So Rory has her hands full: trying to find Kit, wondering who killed Willow, and gearing up for a blind date that Liz has set up.  If anything is going well for her, it's the date - she's met a doctor named Tripp Keating, and he wants to see her again.  Of course, there is also the fact that Dawn is the main suspect in the murder of Willow and has asked for Rory's help in clearing her and finding the real killer.

Once Rory starts investigating she finds out that Willow was keeping secrets - and some of them may be tied to more than one friend of hers.  With Kit back under observation but not doing well, a possible new relationship on the horizon, a police detective watching out for her, and still trying to figure out who hit Kit and murdered Willow, Rory might just not only be trying to find a murderer - she just might be the next victim...

I found this book to be quite a pleasurable read.  Ms. Johnson's characters have depth and warmth; the book is peopled throughout with characters that are three-dimensional and believable.  You can sense the bond between Rory and her friends, and the fact that you know they truly care for each other just by their interaction together.

There are moments of sadness (where I may or may not have shed a tear) that show us that when you have great loss you also have great pain, and it manifests itself in different ways.  With plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested, and more than enough secrets to go around, we are taken on a journey that connects one event to another in an impressive fashion.  When the murderer is finally discovered (as we know they must be) and the motives known, the ending gives us a feeling of satisfaction and a book well read.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.



More on Sybil Johnson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/j/sybil-johnson/

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