Claire and Present Danger by Gillian Roberts

Claire and Present Danger by Gillian Roberts
An Amanda Pepper Mystery
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (156 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

In the City of Brotherly Love, nobody knows a thing about Emmie Cade, a young widow who “appeared from nowhere,” and in the blink of an eye was engaged to Leo Fairchild, a middle-aged bachelor with a fortune. However, as her marriage date approaches, Emmie’s mother-in-law to be, the ailing, autocratic Claire Fairchild, receives anonymous letters. They suggest, none too subtly, that there’s a great deal to learn about the mysterious young woman, none of it good, and much of it involving the violent deaths of the men in her life.

Enter Amanda Pepper who, after completing her day of teaching English at Philly Prep, now moonlights as a P.I. along with C.K. Mackenzie, former homicide detective, current graduate student at Penn. The two of them are hired by Mrs. Fairchild to find out who the charming but evasive Emmie Cade really is. At thirty-two, the young woman has changed her address and name more often than some women change nail polish—and deliberately or not, she’s provided no clues or access to her past.

For Amanda, becoming C.K. Mackenzie’s investigative partner is an exhilarating change from the politics and problems of the new school term, and a welcome distraction from the ordeal of meeting her own prospective in-laws. She’s determined to prove herself an able investigator by ferreting out Emmie Cade’s secrets, but almost immediately, instead of looking at events of the past, she’s forced to deal with the here and now—including murder.

Amanda Pepper is back again, and I am certainly glad. Claire and Present Danger is a wonderful cozy mystery written with wit, humor, wonderful characters, and a twisted and convoluted plot. Amanda Pepper teaches English at Philly Prep, and she also moonlights as a P.I. with her fiancée, C.K. Mackenzie. Amanda is a first rate teacher with a creative approach to teaching and a real understanding of her students. She is just learning how to be a P. I., as C.K., a former homicide detective turned graduate student, helps her to learn the profession.

Gillian Roberts has developed both Amanda and C.K. into complex characters. They are people whom I really care about. Listening to Amanda’s interior monologue about what she should wear to meet C.K.’s parents, while she is also monitoring her classes is fascinating. When she gets caught up in a case, trying to do a background check, she begins to doubt herself. Robert’s humor and wit are clearly present as Amanda thinks, “Perhaps it was time to restrict myself to dangling participles and pronoun case. It was possible my mission on earth was not solving crimes, but disabusing people from saying, “He invited John and myself.” Or, “Between you and I.” Surely preserving the Mother Tongue was as important a public service as doing background checks. On the other hand, we needed additional income, and pronoun usage wasn’t going to generate it.”

The plot is well crafted and I am again impressed by how Amanda’s life as a teacher parallels her work on the case, as a crisis at school provides her with the insight she needs to solve the murder. There are plenty of suspects, and the twists and turns will keep readers guessing until the end.

The novel is filled with lovable characters who support Amanda. First and foremost is her fiancée C.K., who always finds time for her even as he is trying to study for his Ph.D. in criminology. Amanda’s sister, Beth, is instrumental in finding clues, even if she isn’t always aware of what she is doing. In this novel, we also meet C.K.’s parents whom I liked nearly as quickly as Amanda. The interaction between the two families, C.K.’s and Amanda’s is handle with great wit and tact.

Claire and Present Danger is the eleventh novel in this series. It stands alone as a wonderful cozy, and it is also enriched by the earlier novels as the characters grow and develop. If you are looking for a great cozy mystery with a plucky, if at times scattered, detective, then I can recommend not only this novel, but the entire series.

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