First Line: The summer was rumbling on the way summer does in publishing, and I was ready to murder someone.
Editor Samantha Clair and art dealer Aidan Merriam have been friends for a long time, so when she learns Aidan's partner in the gallery is dead of a suspected suicide, she's shocked. To make it even worse, the investigation into his death is being led by Sam's new boyfriend, Inspector Jake Field.
When Aidan asks for her help, Sam finds that she's being pulled apart-- by Aidan and by Jake, who wants her to keep her nose out of it. What's a girl to do but call her mother?
Now not only are Sam's loyalties being tested, her life is in danger from a killer who wants to keep her from putting all the clues together.
I really enjoyed Judith Flanders' first Samantha Clair mystery, A Murder of Magpies, and I'm happy to say that my enjoyment increased to love with her second book. Everything seems to sparkle in A Bed of Scorpions. Samantha Clair is sarcastic, cynical, and has a ready repertoire of information culled from all the reading she's done. Not all of you may like sarcastic wit, but I love it when it's done well-- and it is here. Sam's got a tough act to follow-- her maternal unit is not only the perfect mother, perfect guest, and perfect hostess, she's also the perfect high-powered lawyer. Watching Sam deal with her mother is part of the fun of this book (and thankfully Helena isn't nearly as abrasive as she was in the first book). Also... promise not to tell... this snarky editor who usually has her nose buried in a book has a secret heart of gold, and she's very capable of doing what's best, even if it's at her own cost.
Sam's other relationships-- with ex-flame Aidan, new flame Jake, and her reclusive upstairs neighbor Mr. Rudiger-- also sparkle, as does the mystery. I did pick up a couple of crumbs as I read. For instance, I thought the identity of the main "bad guy" was way too simple, but I hadn't picked all the black hats out of the lineup. I also didn't do a very good job in deducing their motivations.
In many ways, I think Flanders' mysteries are perfect for book lovers. Why? Because one of the very best parts of the book is Samantha's wonderful insider's look at the world of publishing. (In fact her knowledge of publishing helps solve the crime.) As she's trying to solve the mystery, Sam also manages to explain many little ins and outs of publishing, which is bound to thrill the book lovers amongst us.
Do you have to start with the first book in the series? Not really, but I hope you do simply because I've enjoyed both of them so much. An extra little bonus is that I realized this time around that I've also read some of Judith Flanders' non-fiction (Consuming Passions, The Victorian House, and The Making of Home) and enjoyed that as well, so... if you're in the mood for some facts after enjoying this banquet of mayhem, I suggest you try those as well!
A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders
Minotaur Books © 2016
Hardcover, 320 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #2 Samantha Clair mystery