Probably most readers know Margaret Maron better for her more recently published and more contemporary stories about (Judge) Deborah Knott. The Sigrid Harald series dates from the mid-80's to this, the last of the set (the eighth), Fugitive Colors, published in 1995 after a 5-year hiatus from #7. These books remind one of almost classic Ellery Queen type stories: long on police procedures, complexity of plot, and wrapping things up cleanly at the end; somewhat shorter on interesting characters, locales, or other diversions to enhance the entertainment value. Like watching an old TV show in black and white, our leading lady Sigrid is herself kind of a plain, by-the-books supervisor without much femininity or complexity. She did take on a much older lover somewhere along the line, an Arts Professor and painter (Oscar Nauman). He suddenly turns up dead (auto accident) at the start of this story, certainly an unexpected development; and we spend much of the first part of the book with Sigrid out of work grieving, art galleries posturing over showing and selling his works, etc. The mystery doesn't really get going until one of the art scene gallery principals is found quite dead. At that point, things pretty much returned to techniques of the earlier works.
I generally liked this somewhat old-fashioned series of mysteries. I grew somewhat fond of Sigrid despite her shyness and low profile, and there were signs she was gaining more worldliness with every passing book. There was just enough continuing story with some of her colleagues, and her painter-lover, that the characters were becoming more accustomed, more familiar friends. And make no mistake, Maron is a fine writer. I would rate most if not all of the other stories as "4's". But somehow, the disjointed start to this one, the fact that it almost seemed like the last of the series (even if I had not known it), just didn't provide the expected enjoyment. It was almost like the publisher insisted Maron dust Sigrid off and give us one more for the gipper, but that she did so reluctantly. Maybe her lack of joy translated into our own, hence the "3".
I guess I'll go see what Deborah Knott is up to!