Review: Former opera singer Emma Streat is having trouble dealing with her recent past — the murder of her husband, the loss of her singing voice when a fire bomb destroyed her home, even not being a "hands-on" mom when her sons go off to college — when she receives a call from Venice asking for her help in Overkill, the second mystery in this series by Eugenia Lovett West.
Cathy Riordan, an assistant to Emma's niece Vanessa Metcalf, pleads with Emma to immediately travel to Italy. Vanessa, a promising opera diva, intends to quit her vocation and run off with a man she just met following her next — and final — performance. Seth Barbazaolan is handsome and rich, and has promised Vanessa a life of leisure and happiness. Emma flies to Venice to discuss the matter with her niece, but soon after her arrival, Cathy's accompanist is found dead, hung with a drapery cord in Vanessa's suite, an apparent suicide. In the wake of this tragedy, Emma insists Vanessa and Cathy return with her to Boston, reasoning that her niece can always catch up with Seth in Sardinia later. But after arriving in the US, Vanessa suddenly becomes deathly ill. At the hospital, tests suggest she has acquired a virus of some kind — and officials fear it may be the avian flu, the first such case in the US. Emma calls on Lord Andrew Rodale for help, a man who first worked with her in solving her husband's murder, and together they uncover an international organization that trafficks in deadly viruses.
The synopsis of Overkill suggests this mystery may be complicated and overworked, a plot with too many disparate elements, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's more like a grand puzzle, engaging the reader to put the pieces together with Emma Streat. Emma herself is a delightful amateur sleuth, a capable, determined woman, who has faced recent hardship but is unwilling to let that stop her from protecting her family, even if she doesn't quite know what that may entail. This fast-paced, thrilling, really rather sophisticated read will almost certainly be remembered as one of the best mysteries of the year.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Overkill.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Overkill for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Overkill: Venice, Italy, Boston, Massachusetts
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Overkill by Eugenia Lovett West — An Emma Street Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 2009
List Price: $25.99