Murder As A Second Language-Joan Hess

Murder As A Second Language
Joan Hess
Minotaur, Dec 17 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9781250011961

To fill out the volunteer section of their college applications to schools like Vanderbilt, teenage BFFs Caron and Inez become ESL tutors. At the same time, Caron’s bookselling mom Claire applies as a volunteer at the troubled Farberville Literacy Council. Instead of becoming a tutor like her daughter, Claire ends up on the Board of Directors, but quickly seeks an exit strategy as the FLC is a cesspool filled with embezzlement claims and financial problems.

Not long after Claire joins the FLC, her new husband Deputy Police Chief Peter Rosen rationalizes breaking a personal vow that she will sleuth anyway when he asks his wife to help him investigate the murder of ESL student Ludmila Grabowski; she has insider access he does not have. The elderly acrimonious Russian was found dead in a FLC storage room, but her body seems to have been moved as evidence suggests she banged her head on a copying machine. Claire finds many of her board member peers with the opportunity and concealing all sorts of activities that mostly do not relate to the late Ludmila, but who committed the act remains out of reach.

The latest Claire Malloy Arkansas whodunit (see Closely Akin to Murder, Mummy Dearest and Deader Homes And Gardens) is an exciting mystery. The enjoyable storyline contains the typical albeit somewhat toned down zaniness especially the suspect pool filled with amusing underdeveloped characters. Series fans will enjoy this fun regional whodunit; as Claire learns that volunteerism in her case proves that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Harriet Klausner

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