Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Send in the Clowns (The Country Club Murders Book 4)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Audio CD; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110845; 9781635110814; 9781515963684
Henery Press
246 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $29.99; $6.99 Amazon
October 25, 2016

Five Stars


Haunted Houses are scary enough without knife-wielding clowns.  Especially murderous knife-wielding clowns.  So thinks Ellison Russell, single mother, artist and reluctant sleuth.  Now death wears a red nose and Ellison is up to the blood-stained collar of her new trench coat in costumes, caffeine, and possible killers.  Who stabbed Brooks Harney?  And why?  Money?  Jealousy?  Drugs?  With Mother meddling, her father furious, and her date dragged downtown for questioning, turns out Ellison's only confidante is Mr. Coffee.

********

Ellison Russell is a widowed artist who lives in a suburb of Kansas City and belongs to the wealthy Country Club set of the 1970's.  One night around Halloween her daughter Grace doesn't come home from an outing to a haunted house with friends, so she decides to go look for Grace herself.  But during her excursion into the frightful place, she comes across a clown holding a bloody knife, who not only stumbles toward her, but appears to know her, calling her name and asking for help.  When he collapses in front of her, the knife falling from his hand, it is only then she realizes that he is dying.  Glancing up, she sees another clown, also armed, and he is heading her way.  She is saved only by a group of girls who have entered the haunted house, and makes her way into the center of the circle, thereby saving herself.

Shaken, she calls Detective Anarchy Jones, who believes her even when they return to the room and find no body.  But it is only a day or later when the body of Brooks Harney is discovered floating in a river.  Brooks, it seems, is the lost black sheep of a wealthy local family who has apparently given him up ever since he became hooked on drugs and stole jewelry from them.  What Ellison soon finds out, however, is that Brooks was apparently turning his life around - intending to graduate college and go into social work when he was killed.  

But who wanted him dead, and why?  That, literally, is the million dollar question.  Was it his brother Robbie, who wanted nothing to do with him?  His mother, who blames him for another child's death?  His apparent widow, who wants his inheritance?  Or someone else who just hasn't been discovered yet?  While Ellison is trying to stay away from the situation it isn't easy - especially when three blood spattered business cards were found in the pocket of the trench coat she was wearing at the time - and one of them belongs to Hunter Tafft, an attorney who is also a trusted friend and suitor.  When Ellison realizes that Brooks must have put the cards in her pocket when he fell on her, she chooses to keep Hunter's card - turning the two others over to Detective Jones.

Yet there are more surprises in store: when Ellison attends the Brooks' funeral, she discovers that the young man had a wife, a shrew named Stormy who is intending to stick around until she receives a supposed inheritance, and is under the mistaken impression that Ellison can obtain it for her; Ellison's father is having a rare argument with her (he thinks she needs a man to manage her) that has her wound up; her mother tells her with a change of attitude she can avoid finding dead bodies; and Anarchy Jones and Hunter Tafft are in fighting form as they vie for her attentions.

Even when Ellison tries to stay out of the investigation, she keeps getting pushed back in - but it isn't until Ellison decides to make a decision she's been avoiding for awhile that she begins to put the pieces together which will not only solve one puzzle, but may bring her face to face with a cold-blooded killer to solve a murder...

Once again, Ms. Mulhern has given us another delightful entry in this series; and just as delightful is the fact that the books keep getting better every time.  The characters keep evolving, as well they should, and we learn more about them with every volume.  In fact, it is a testament to the writing talent of Ms. Mulhern that her characters are so believable that even I would have a hard time choosing between either Tafft or Jones - but it sure is fun trying to figure out which one she'll eventually end up with - and even if it isn't doing her insides and her brain any good at all to waffle between them, I love reading about it.

As always, when the murderer is finally revealed and the questions are all answered, it comes a surprise, amid quite a clever plot.  There are hints throughout, but hidden nicely and not easy to find, which gives us a very good mystery indeed.  Highly recommended.



More on Julie Mulhern's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/julie-mulhern/

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