Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Scandal in Fair Haven by Carolyn Hart (Henrie O. #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good, intriguing mystery
Cons: Slow middle; rushed ending
The Bottom Line
Intriguing puzzle
But pace lets the story down
Could have been better

The Scandal Bogs Down

Scandal in Fair Haven is the second book in Carolyn Hart's Henrie O mystery series starring retired reporter Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins.

Henrie O is looking forward to a week's vacation with a friend at a cabin in Tennessee. But first her friend needs emergency heart surgery. Then Henrie's first night in the cabin is interrupted by the friend's nephew.

It's the middle of the night when Craig Matthews arrives bloody and upset. He's just found the body of his wife, Patty Kay, in their house in the town of Fair Haven. The police are looking for Craig because they believe he did it, and the fact that he ran doesn't help his case.

Henrie thinks it's a set up. The case against Craig is based on nothing but circumstantial evidence, and too many details point to him. It just all seems a little to convenient. Posing as Craig's aunt, she returns with him to Fair Haven to see if she can find the truth.

On the surface, Fair Haven seems like a nice, mostly rich town scandalized by a murder in the community. This kind of thing just doesn't happen there. But the more Henrie learns, the more motives seem to emerge. The problem is, just as many clues point to Craig as against him. Can Henrie clear Craig, or will she just put the final nails in his coffin?

This is a book populated by strong characters. While most of them are thrown at the reader at the beginning, with a little effort, they are easy to keep straight. Part of this is their personalities. While almost all of them are rich, Ms. Hart has made them unique, which helps them stand out in the reader's mind.

Once again, the style is outstanding as well. Things flow so well it's hard to put the book down because the reader has been drawn into the story.

The only real black mark against the book is the plot. It starts out strong with a great puzzle you can't wait to see solved. Then other suspects and motives are introduced. For the first half, things roll along fine. The problem comes in the second half. Henrie learns little new but keeps going over the same clues again and again reaching no new conclusions. Things do build again toward the climax, but the ending is a bit sudden given what has happened before and ultimately not as satisfying as it could have been.

I really did enjoy Scandal in Fair Haven and am looking forward to more from Carolyn Hart.  Hopefully the next book will have a climax that is more satisfying then this one.

And here's how to read Henrie O.'s Mysteries in order.

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