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When Jane Lawless, newly minted private eye, receives a voicemail message from her PI partner’s nephew, she has no idea that he’s already dead. DeAndre Moore was knifed outside a strip club, Gaudy Lights, before Jane ever had a chance to contact him. DeAndre’s uncle, Alf Nolan, is stunned. Alf’s sister had adopted DeAndre many years earlier, and the young man was the last person anyone expected to be murdered. When Alf is hospitalized due to complications from an old gunshot wound (which he received while protecting Jane), it’s up to Jane to find out what happened to DeAndre.
It doesn’t take long before another murder occurs, and then another. As Jane doggedly seeks answers, she determines that the Gaudy Lights strip club holds the clues to DeAndre’s murder and to crimes that occurred in Saint Louis three decades earlier. Little does she know what kind of dangerous experiences will come her way due to her inquiries.
Along the way, Cordelia, Jane’s best friend and over-the-top thespian/theater director, makes an appearance, as do Cordelia’s sister Octavia and her daughter Hattie. In this 20th entry in the Jane Lawless series, the wit and humor provided by the secondary characters is nicely balanced with the grimness of the tale that unfolds, a tale that seems almost karmic in the way that old sins return to haunt those in the present who have attempted to hide their reprehensible actions.
The mystery is suspenseful and the characters are fascinating, especially due to their subterfuge and manipulations. The subplots in Hart’s novels always seem to leave me wanting to know more, and Rest for the Wicked was no different. Jane struggles with being newly single and then goes on to meet a woman who seems captivating and well worth getting to know…but of course we readers expect there will be complications. Jane doesn’t have a very good track record with women, and we’ll have to wait until the next book to see if this relationship can “stick.”
As usual, Hart’s dialogue and pacing are exemplary. The storyline goes back and forth between Jane’s investigation and the tawdry actions of Gaudy Lights owner, Vince Bessetti, in the wake of DeAndre’s murder. It takes Jane quite a bit of time to uncover motivations and murderous intentions, but when she does figure out some of the details, she puts herself in danger. It’s not until near the very end that Jane finally puts the pieces together in a surprising and deeply satisfying conclusion.
This is one of the best books in the Lawless series. If you want to read a traditional mystery that’s gripping, puzzling, and plotted expertly, this one will fit the bill with flying colors.
Rest for the Wicked: A Jane Lawless Mystery
By Ellen Hart
St Martin/Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 9781250001863, 336 pp.