Jeanne Matthews,
Where the Bones are Buried
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2015)

There is a very intricate and convoluted plot in Jeanne Matthews' Where the Bones are Buried, with a solid grounding in modern Berlin.

If you can imagine a non-funny farce ... well, that's what this book reminded me of, and that's not an insult. Farces tend to be far more solidly and intricately plotted than most books, and that's perfect for a story that ranges between murder mystery and international intrigue.

Dinah is an excellent protagonist -- she's not generic, but has her own strengths and weaknesses, plus a family that is a sad trial to her. (Her family reminds me of some of the families in Jennifer Cruisie's books, but again -- not funny.) Now, I do think there were several times during this narrative that anyone sensible would have gone to the cops ... but it worked. She does grow and change, as does her boyfriend -- and it's possible that even her family will start to be more reasonable.

Much of the plot is who's scamming whom, in areas like laundered drug money, stolen artifacts and various types of history all colliding in a godawful mess. I appreciated these diverse threads! A lot of mysteries and thrillers are more focused, but here -- life intervenes, as it generally does.

My only quibble -- several scenes would have been even more effective if they were played for laughs. Like, when everyone and sundry, including some people that hate each other, descend on Dinah's small apartment to stay for unknown lengths of time. With a story that's serious and grim, if this were written for laughs it would have made a great contrast that would have emphasized both aspects.

It is a very engaging and entertaining read, with rare plot subtlety and well-drawn characters, plus an excellently twisty plot. Dinah's profession doesn't really come into it much; she's mostly wrangling relatives, but is learning and growing all the while.

I enjoyed this, and am interested in reading more in this series. This is the fifth book, but it makes a fine place to start.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

30 May 2015

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