Sunday, May 17, 2015

New Setting, New Characters, but a Classic Bethany Maines Mystery! AN UNSEEN CURRENT (San Juan Islands)

I've never held back on blunt truth about the mysteries that Bethany Maines framed in her multilayered "Carrie Mae" cosmetics and espionage corporation: They are funny to the point of getting a stitch in your side, or interrupting the quiet evening of anyone else in the house by chuckling, giggling, guffawing, and (unladylike) snorting at the situations and reactions in these "caper"-style mysteries with an indelible "just us girls" twist to them.

With AN UNSEEN CURRENT, set in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State, Maines dials down the creative confusion and hilarity a bit, to spin a more traditional mystery featuring out-of-work actress Tish Yearly. Evicted from her apartment at the same time that she loses her (non-acting) job, Tish takes the last and least appealing choice open to her: She drives onto the ferry and heads for her grandfather's home, desperate enough for a place to stay (and lick her wounds) that she's willing to barter cleaning out the elderly man's sheds and home in exchange.

But Tobias Yearly isn't quite the cutesy grandpa Tish thinks she's running to -- even though the two of them are walking with shared grief about the untimely death of Tish's dad, they don't know much about each other. Tobias's close friend Reginald, serving up a welcoming dinner for Tish, is only too ready to tell at least one secret: Tobias used to be a CIA agent.

Tish hasn't had enough time to process this by the next morning, and at that point, it's too late for that sweet across-the-generations helpfulness she thought she'd bought into -- because Reginald's been murdered, and both Tish and Tobias are "persons of interest."

Maines keeps the plot bouncing, with well-applied risk and tension, plenty of humorous moments (they're just not quite as extreme as in her first two books!), and even a strand of romance or, as Tish is willing to name it, lust -- but does it have to focus on the officer of the law determined to investigate her? Ouch!

Amateur sleuth though she is, Tish quickly learns from her grandfather that pro acting skills apply very well to analyzing whether suspects are lying, and of course to infiltrating and investigating.
"Too bad he's lying," said Tish and Tobias at the same time.

"You can't know that!" exclaimed [the waitress] Amber, clearly a romantic.

"I was not with Shelley last night," quoted Tobias. "Used her words to construct his denial, and no contractions, that's a very bad sign."

"He practically built a wall between them with the condiments," said Tish, "And he kept turning his body away from her."

"Not to mention the off-timing on the emphatic finger poke," said Tobias.

"Yeah, that was way off," she agreed, nodding.

"What are you two? The lie detecting duo of Orcas?" demanded Amber.
Matter of fact, Tish and Tobias make a great team, one of the few investigating granddaughter-grandfather setups around! Tish is smart, quick on the uptake, and soon is way too close to the probable perpetrators of the crime.

AN UNSEEN CURRENT gives a lively, good read, in traditional mystery format, with good twists and the right amount of danger and deception. I enjoyed it -- actually, I couldn't put it down! Available as an e-book, and also by "print on demand." Ignore the typos (I did, for the most part) and zip into the fun. Oh, and by the way -- if you're taking it on vacation with you ... make sure nobody's going to give you a hard time if you get an occasional urge to read the funniest parts out loud. It is, after all, a Bethany Maines caper!

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