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Dare to Die LP: A Death on Demand Mystery Paperback – Large Print, Mar 31 2009
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From the Back Cover
She came in the rain. Alone. On a bicycle.
Annie and Max Darling are completely unprepared when the arrival of a mysterious young woman shocks their sea island and stirs up more than just gossip.
It turns out that Iris, the beautiful stranger, is a former resident of Broward's Rock. Her arrival throws the normally happy town into a downward spiral that pits neighbor against neighbor.
Things take a turn for the worse when Annie befriends Iris and invites her to attend the Darlings' party at the pavilion where Death is the uninvited guest. Suddenly, Max and Annie find themselves in the middle of a fight they don't understand and at the mercy of an unknown assailant who's trying to kill them—and all they know is that it is one of their friends.
About the Author
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However the Darling gala abruptly ends when Iris' corpse is found; someone strangled her to death. Police Chief Billy Cameron demands a promise from Annie that she will stay out of the investigation that he (and his team) is conducting; she agrees. However, eccentric islander mystery writer Emma Clyde sees a novel coming from the Tilford homicide so investigates until she is knocked out of the game. When the unknown culprit appears to target the Darling duet, Death on Demand bookstore owner Annie and private investigator Max break their pledge to Cameron and begin snooping.
As always with the wonderful Death on Demand series (see DEATH WALKED IN), fans receive an engaging whodunit with many interwoven references to other mystery authors and their titles. The story line has an Agatha Christie feel to it in which almost any moment Inspector Poirot (instead of Annie and Max) will gather the suspects together and challenge each of their alibis in a group interrogation that brings out the past and present. Fans will enjoy the latest cozy as the Darlings try to prevent further killings especially their own.
Anticipation of the gala at the Harbor elicits mixed reactions among the guests who have been invited, close friends of the Darlings. A well-to-do product of Broward's Rock, Max has gathered long-time "tennis club" associates into his and Annie's social circle. But a mysterious young woman arrives this day. "She comes in the rain, alone, on a bicycle."
Iris is a former island resident, long removed in time and place from her past life as a teenager here. She has dealt with personal demons --- drugs, alcohol and homelessness --- but returns to cleanse the memory of a night when her dear friend, Jocelyn, dies. She must discover the truth.
Meanwhile, Annie tends to business at her bookstore, Death on Demand. She welcomes local mystery writer Emma Clyde, who has developed a case of writer's block. While sympathizing with Emma's dilemma, Annie's plans change when her manager, Ingrid, is called out of town for a family medical emergency. Ingrid and Duane own Nightingale Courts, the local motel. Annie offers that the Darlings stay at the Courts and tidy up cabins for Ingrid's guests. Besides, she and Max need a temporary home until their new one is livable. Iris is the lone resident this weekend at Nightingale Courts. Emma overhears the talk and perks up at the thought of a girl on a bike who has just arrived, perhaps a storyline for her new book. Emma goes to the motel, carries an armful of towels to Iris's room on pretense of being a maid. Snooping for her book's plot seems a normal occurrence. However, she takes a nasty fall and lands in the hospital with partial amnesia.
In the course of housekeeping at Nightingale Courts, Annie visits with the shy Iris, lends her a suit for a swim and invites her to their party that evening. She is certain that Iris will renew old acquaintances among the good friends who will attend. Finally, party time arrives, punctuated by a sinister event: Iris's murder in the woods at the Pavilion's edge.
Now the Darlings trust no one, especially none of the couples they've befriended. These friends comprised the tight group as teens who ran with Iris, her pal Jocelyn, and Jocelyn's brother. Annie promises not to interfere with the local investigation, but breaks that vow when she and Max are victims of arson at the motel. Shaken, with Max's feet burned, Annie's mission focuses on their attacker.
Annie assists Billy, the local sheriff, in finding out where Fran, Buck, Russell, Liz and Cara were at the time Iris disappeared. Their whereabouts will likely explain Jocelyn's untimely death years before. Annie believes the two are connected.
Carolyn Hart's newest story fulfills a weekend's entertainment. My empathy, however, waned with Annie's stubbornness. Previous Death on Demand books evened the pair's involvement, which I found more desirable. Max is likable in DARE TO DIE, but Annie overshadows him. He is confined to a wheelchair during the latter chapters, a circumstance that might have been altered. Sleuthing in the formula of "Murder, She Wrote" tends to supposition rather than action.
Like earlier books in the series, DARE TO DIE follows the antics of a likable couple who solves mysteries in their secluded island home. The Death on Demand bookstore, as a setting element, completes the spice.
--- Reviewed by Judy Gigstad
Annie owns the Death on Demand, a mystery bookshop on Froward's Rock, off the So. Carolina coast. She and her husband Max are nearing the end of a home restoration project and have planned a party. Plans, however, go awry when additional damage delays the completion, so the two plan to hold their party at the Harbor Pavilion. Meanwhile, Annie and Max are temporarily residing at a cottage at Nightingale Courts, the local motel owned by friends Ingrid and Duane. When Ingrid's sister is hospitalized, Annie agrees to help out at Nightingale Courts and leaves the bookshop to be run by her somewhat ditzy mother-in-law.
Annie and max have invited members of their social circle to the party, and each has accepted but each has reservations about the event where several of them were present when Jocelyn, one of their schoolmates mysteriously drowned ten years earlier. Now, another member of that group, Iris, has returned to the island. She's booked a cottage at Nightingale Courts, and since she's alone, Annie invites her to come to the party.
Later that night, Iris is found murdered, and Annie can't help but wonder what's behind the mystery. Soon, an arson attempt is made on Annie and Max, and the need to discover long-buried secrets becomes foremost in Annie's life. But at what cost to her and Max?
Many characters appear in Dare to Die. This is my first Carolyn Hart book, so I was a bit slow in catching up to characters appearing in previous stories in the series. But once their histories and motives were explained, I was well-engaged in learning who and what was behind the murders. Several of their friends had motives to hide the truth. Watching Annie ferret out these motives proved interesting. The ending was suspenseful and kept me guessing. As with a Poirot mystery, all the possible suspects were confronted and the reader was left to wonder until the very end.
A well-plotted and entertaining cozy, Dare To Die has made this reviewer a new Carolyn Hart fan.