ISBN #: 9780671754686
May 1, 1993
First came Ruta Lippton, owner of the Curl Crazee hair salon, who said her house was "broken-and-entered." Winslow Reed, an ex-nerd who was now married to ex-cheerleader June Jacoby, told the same story. Both Winslow and Ruta lived in the fancy new subdivision called Twelve Oaks, and both claimed the sheriff wasn't taking them seriously, on account of how nothing had actually been stolen. Last came nasal-voiced, horse-faced Phyllis Carver. Nothing was missing from her place, either, but then poor Phyllis didn't have much to take.
I was shocked when June and Ruta suddenly called me off the case. But shock didn't begin to describe how I felt when I headed back out to Phyllis's and found her shot dead. Near her body was a scrap of paper with a single number seven scrawled on it, which, as clues went, was pretty pitiful. Then, while I was waiting for the sheriff, I found the three tape recorders. One still had a tape in it - a recording of Phyllis's husband Orval and a woman who definitely was not Phyllis. In bed. Having a real good time. That made Orval a prime suspect, but I still didn't know what them other two tape recorders were doing in Phyllis's kitchen cupboard, and what the heck Phyllis meant by that number seven...
When Haskell Blevins is first approached by Ruta Lippton, and then Winslow Reed, they both have the same story. Someone broke into their homes and took...nothing. They both want the case solved as soon as possible, but without fingerprints and without a crime being committed, how is he supposed to solve it? No wonder the sheriff didn't take them seriously.
But since they paid in advance, he tells them he'll do his best. Then Phyllis Carver shows up with the same story. But where Phyllis lives isn't nearly as nice, and she doesn't have much of anything. Yet when Ruta and Winslow's wife June both call to tell Haskell to keep the money and they don't need him anymore, he gets a little suspicious. Enough to call Phyllis - who isn't answering her phone. And when he drives out to her house he finds her dead, shot in the back. Who would want to kill her? And what is with the three tape recorders - with only one of them with a tape in it?
When Phyllis's sister Imogene arrives at the home she singles Haskell out and hires him to find out who killed her sister...after informing him as to what was on the missing tapes, and what Phyllis was doing with them. But when Haskell's office is trashed, he wonders just how far someone will go to get them back...
Well, I was hoping (again) that this series would improve. It didn't. In fact, it regressed. While the plot was interesting enough, there were questions (again) that were never answered, and animal cruelty (again) that could have - and should have - been avoided. So far, this author has tortured and/or killed animals in two out of three books. I shudder to think what the last three in this series will bring, and honestly, I'm not going to waste my time reading them to find out. There is no reason at all in a fairly harmless mystery (no blood or gore) why animal cruelty should enter the equation. It really makes me wonder (again) if the author just dislikes animals altogether.
Anyway, Haskell himself acts like a teenage girl, wondering through the entire book why one person or another has more of a love life than he does. He bemoans the fact that he was slightly more popular in high school than Winslow, so how did he wind up with a cheerleader wife while poor Haskell (who compares himself to Howdy Doody) spends his night loveless. Honestly?
This man, who was a homicide detective in Louisville and is now a private investigator, hasn't been able to find one single woman in town who finds that fact interesting and would like to know more about him? Okay, admittedly he comes off as having the I.Q. of a turnip - I mean, really, he can't see the forest for the trees until he practically runs into one, and he suspects everyone of committing the crime instead of looking for the most likely person - but probably because he's more worried about someone else's ability to get women while he can't get them to even notice him.
But what ticked me off the most is what I've put in a spoiler below and contains references to the killer's actions, so please don't read on if you don't want to know:
When Haskell finds out who shot his dog, he doesn't do anything. He doesn't call the sheriff and tell him he knows who shot Rip. He doesn't even call the husband of the woman Boyd was having an affair with - which is the reason he shot the dog in the first place, because he was looking for the tapes - and tell him that Boyd was sleeping with his wife. (Boyd didn't want the husband coming after him). He doesn't even tell Boyd that he's responsible for paying Rip's medical bills. He gets away with trashing Haskell's office and home and shooting his dog without punishment of any kind. Would a person who was once a cop - a homicide detective, no less - allow someone to commit a crime like this? He must have been a pretty bad cop to begin with. (Personally, I find it disgusting that she would need Haskell's dog to be shot and left for dead as part of the plot. Ms. McCafferty has a habit of leaving loose ends like this when she writes these books - in every one so far I've found unanswered questions. Like why did the killer only take two tapes and leave the third? Why did the killer take two tapes instead of the one that concerned them? Were they planning on blackmailing the other party? They certainly couldn't hand the tape to them and tell them, 'hey, I just killed Phyllis and thought you might want this back.' There was no reason they should have been protecting the other party, yet they took two tapes and left the third. It didn't make any sense at all.
Anyway, if you've read the spoiler than you can see why I've rated this book so low. I'm not sure if I'll continue with this series or not.
More on Taylor McCafferty's Books: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/barbara-taylor-mccafferty/