Murder au Naturel
Review: Allen Barlowe sets his first mystery featuring Barbara and Lee Spinacci at Xanadunes, a central Florida community for naturists — one where secrets are surprisingly easily hidden — in Murder au Naturel.
When Lee slips into the empty community hot tub one evening, he thinks he's spending some relaxing time by himself. Little does he realize he's not alone: the body of an unidentified man is at the bottom. The police write it off as an accident, someone who had too much to drink, stumbled, hit his head and drowned. But Lee isn't so sure. Though strangers in his community are not unheard of, they rarely roam about unaccompanied. And since he was the one to find the body, he feels a need for closure: who is the man, was his death accidental, and if not, is there a murderer running around Xanadunes, and if so, why aren't the police interested in identifying who it is?
The mystery plot in Murder au Naturel is very thin, though how the killer escapes detection is cleverly thought out. Most of the early chapters are spent describing characters in great physical detail … probably more than readers want — or need — to know, all the while tending to champion a little too excessively the virtues of living a life free of clothes. As Barbara tells her husband at one point, "[I]t's just too much for me sometimes. I get overloaded." The feeling for the reader is somewhat mutual. As confident as the author is in advocating the benefits of a clothing-optional lifestyle, he's just as uncertain when it comes to the murder mystery itself. Attempts to add humor (clothed investigators interviewing nude suspects come to mind) or suspense (Lee nearly discovered by thugs while attending an orgy) are, at best, tentative. Murder au Naturel may be intended as escapist fun for mystery fans, but it doesn't quite achieve that level of entertainment.
Acknowledgment: Allen Barlowe provided a copy of Murder au Naturel for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Murder au Naturel: Florida
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Murder au Naturel by Allen Barlowe
Publisher: Llumina Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $13.95