Friday, June 1, 2012

Something to Kill For: Review

Something to Kill For is an engaging debut novel by Susan Holtzer.  This off-beat cozy which features murder and mayhem on the garage sale circuit won the Malice Domestic Contest for Best First Mystery of 1994.  It's easy to see why--it's a fast-paced mystery with a likeable main character.  And it features an unusual setting for crime.  I know that bargain hunters can seem a bit ruthless when they're looking for the Big Score (paying pennies for a valuable find), but who knew that when someone says they'd kill to get their hands on a certain item they might actually mean it?

Holtzer takes us to Ann Arbor, Michigan--home of fanatic football fans and a major university.  It is also the place that Anneke Haagen, a computer consultant, calls home.  Her computer skills have brought her friends in antiquing world and Joyce McCarthy, one of the antique dealers and a close friend, convinces her to join in on a Saturday round of garage sales.  Bargains found while on the a garage sale hunt may bring anything from mild profits to a big bonus--if the dealer is lucky.  And they all dream of the Big Score--finding an Old Master among stack of paintings or valuable piece of china in jumble of old dishes--a discovery that could set them up for life.  

Anneke is just along for the ride--simply pleased to find a piece of Art Deco sculpture that will fit in well with her collection--until the two women discover a fellow bargain hunter dying in her car.  Joanna Westlake was one of the less popular members of the garage sale regulars.  She often undercut fellow dealers and picked their brains on their pet subjects only to use the knowledge to snatch an item up that she knew they'd want.  Anneke and Joyce find her after a brutal attack with the proverbial blunt instrument and the stricken woman barely has time to gasp "The Jap" before she's gone.  

At first it seems that this may have been a politically incorrect reference to Ellen Nakamura, another of the dealers, but it soon becomes clear that there is enough suspicion to go around the antique community.  Anneke has a tenuous connection to the police department by virtue of her computer consulting status with the boys in blue and is asked by the members of the antique co-op if she would do what she can to determine what the status of the investigation is.  This brings her into close contact with Lieutenant Karl Genesko, a handsome ex-football player turned police detective.  Anneke's logical mind and observant nature will come in handy as she assists Genesko in getting to the bottom of not just one, but three murders by the time the case is over.  And it all comes down to figuring out who got their hands on the Score Big enough to kill for....and what Joanna meant in her final words.

This was a fun read.  I loved the interesting backdrop for the mystery and Anneke is a terrific character.  Her backstory is complex enough to maker her interesting and believable.  The plot has plenty of twists and suspects....and I hate to admit it but the wool was thoroughly pulled over my eyes.  I was sitting there very smugly reading away, all convinced that I had spotted the killer and the motive.  And I was absolutely wrong.  Well done, Susan Holtzer.  Well done.  Four stars for a terrific cozy debut.

1 comment:

Chris Thompson said...

This strikes me somewhat close to home. My mom is a weekly garage saler...though no murders that I know of.