Review: With some passages that read like rap, and others like scripture, Claudia Mair Burney's Deadly Charm has an enchantment all its own. The third in Burney's Amanda Bell Brown series, the mystery in this one is as much about whether forensic psychologist Bell and her Detroit PD detective husband, Jazz, will remain an inter-racial twosome, and what "the egg size growth in [her] lower abdomen" is, as it is about what happened during the drowning of three-year-old Zeekie Thunder, the youngest child of charismatic but lecherous preaching personality, sixtyish Ezekiel Thunder and his early twenties wife, Nikki, with eyes for Jazz. The thirty-five-year-old Bell narrates the story in a breezy, colloquial style and with clip along dialogue that propels the reader towards the novel's conclusion and past a couple of questionable turns in the plot.
For Bell "there's lostsa splainin' to do" as she discusses her convoluted three-way relationship between herself and ex-boyfriend, a 28-year-old white preacher and community activist named, Rocky, and her estranged husband. Then, there's her revelation of an even earlier failed marriage and a miscarriage, and as the story progresses there are background checks that reveal a trail of the deaths under mysterious circumstances of other peoples' ex-partners and former children. There's also the rationale for preacher Thunder's philandering, Jazz's bouts with the bottle, a broken promise to raise young Zeekie from the dead, and the cause for the cases of gastroenteritis that almost spell lights out for both Bell and Jazz before they nail the psychopathic perpetrator.
Although the setting is often at Rocky's Rock House church where serious undertakings occur, there is humour there, too, when Bell is accosted by a demented Sister Lou demanding Bell be exorcised, a performance that embarrasses Bell when it hits national television. Lou is the same "Sistah" who wants to exorcise Jazz's sexual demons, and was present with Ezekiel Thunder's older children, 12-year-old Zeke and 15-year-old Zekia, when toddler Zeekie died. Bell's Ann Arbor pad is aptly described as her "little slice of paradise: shabby chic meets paradise," and she perceives Jazz's self image as "an angry man with a black heart and a haunted mind" while he, in turn, sees "Blondilocks" Rocky as a "blond boy toy" and Bell as a wannabe "Columbo." Readers of Christian literature will appreciate the various religious references that are woven into the story in an unobtrusive but convincing way, and everyone will appreciate having a pleasantly entertaining read.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (email@example.com) for contributing his review of Deadly Charm.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of Deadly Charm for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man
Howard Books (Trade Paperback), January 2008
ISBN-13: 9781416551942; ISBN-10: 1416551948
Location(s) referenced in Deadly Charm: Michigan
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Deadly Charm by Claudia Mair Burney — An Amanda Bell Brown Mystery
Publisher: Howard Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $13.99