Abigail Padgett, Blue (Mysterious Press, 1998)

All the expected professions are well-represented in mystery novels at this point, so authors looking for something a bit different must go farther and farther to find it. Abigail Padgett, in Blue, has succeeded in creating a profession new to the mystery genre, at least as far as I know!

Blue, the title character, is a social psychologist who works applying her knowledge of instinctive primate behaviors (she's the author of the definitive guide to the subject, Ape) to such projects as shopping mall design and restaurant failure. And, of course, to any mysteries she's dragged into.

The mystery is interwoven with other aspects of Blue's life: family troubles, the resolution of a past love and possible discovery of a new (lesbian, if anyone cares), her profession and volunteering. Her dog does not narrate any chapters, talk or co-write the book. Padgett's plotting is very well done, and people and events are interesting in themselves, relevant to the book's events, and suggestive of interesting possibilities for future books -- so I hope this is the start of a series! The book does stand alone, though; the mystery plot isn't To Be Continued.

Some of the most intriguing parts, I think, are Blue's comments relating human behavior to that of other primates. Fascinating, and accurate to the point I know about such things. It's given me another way to think about shopping, mall design and the otherwise inexplicable success of certain sorts of movies ... Blue uses her expertise in the solution of the mystery, which makes it more than a cute gimmick.

If you like mysteries with mostly-decent characters, some new and interesting twists, and a novel approach to finding a solution, try Blue. I know I'll be reading her other books as soon as I can!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

Buy Blue from Amazon.com.