Tuesday, February 12, 2019

As Directed (A Maggie O'Malley Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Kathleen Valenti
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114706; 9781635114676
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$31.95; [Price TBA] $6.99 Amazon
March 12, 2019

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In the shadow of a past fraught with danger and tainted by loss, former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O'Malley is rebuilding her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career at the corner drugstore.

But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong.  A customer falls ill in the store.  Followed by another.  And then more.

The specter of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets and new suspicions from which no one is immune.

As Maggie and her best friend Constantine begin to investigate, they discover that some of the deadliest doses come from the most unexpected places.

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Maggie O'Malley is an ex-pharmaceutical researcher who lost her job when the company she worked for imploded with murder and scandal.  Now she's been given a new opportunity: she's working as a pharmacy technician while studying to obtain her pharmacist license.  She's also knee-deep in wedding preparations to her best friend Constantine - mostly because her aunt Fiona and his aunt Polly are pushing them.  While she thinks she can handle the pressure - eventually - she's determined to weather it through.

Unfortunately, all that is coming to an end when she finds the body of a customer in one of the aisles at the store where she works.  This is bad in itself, but not so soon after she comes across two more people - a mother and daughter who are still alive, thank Heaven - and at first both she and her boss, Lev Petrosian, wonder if it wasn't a mistake in the medications.  Then another pharmacy customer is discovered dead in her home, and suddenly the stakes have been raised higher still.

This is eventually ruled out by the police who discover another reason - poison - and Maggie is determined to discover how the customers were poisoned and why.  She's hampered by the fact that a local reporter, Russ Brock, has been contacting her trying to get a story, and Maggie begins to wonder if Russ knows more than he's saying.  She's also being stalked  by Miles Montgomery, a man she sent to prison and is now out to get revenge.

 But when Maggie starts digging for the truth and the reason for the poisonings, she finds out that there's something more sinister going on, and she's more than disturbed to discover it.  When she resolves to do something about it, she doesn't realize how close she's gotten, or if she'll live long enough to get married anyway...

This is the third book in the series, begun with Protocol, and I have to say that Ms. Valenti has lost none of the fervor that made the first two books so good.  Maggie is changing; going from just surviving life to being stronger.  She's no wilted rose, stumbling into situations and then trying to figure out how to get back out without discovery.  She's logical, strong, and can think on her feet.  In other words, the type of protagonist I love to read about.  Like Maggie, I'm more driven by logic than emotion, but unlike her, I have the great pleasure of not finding myself in life-threatening situations (Well, we can't have everything, can we?)

She begins thinking a man has died from a heart attack in one of the pharmacy aisles, but when two more people fall ill, she's sure something is wrong, even if no one pays much attention to her...and she's determined to figure out the truth.  But Maggie's personal life is getting in the way: she's still having headaches, Constantine is pushing her to see a physician, she's being stalked and harassed, she has wedding plans that need attention, etc.

But it's the details that make up the gist of the story.  While I won't go into the majority of them here, be aware that when you begin with a young girl who's a shoplifter, Maggie comes to her rescue.  That is the beginning of a chain of events which keep you riveted to the story as you try to discover the truth along with Maggie.

It is a sad tale, indeed, and one, unfortunately, that not only is dark but all too realistic; once the circle begins it's easy to allow it to continue.  The author has not only a way with words, but is able to weave this sadness along with hope and creates a narrative that is taut with suspense, intrigue, and excitement; building to a climax that is indeed worthy and almost chilling.

When the ending comes and the murderer is revealed, it is at once both believable and tragic; more than satisfactory, and I wish I could say more but in doing so I am afraid I would be giving away too much, and I don't wish to do that.  All in all, I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/As-Directed-Maggie-OMalley-Mystery/dp/1635114675/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2713219626

More on Kathleen Valenti's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/v/kathleen-valenti/

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