The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler

The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler
A Laurel and Helen New York Mystery
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (282 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Private Investigator Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her friend, Laurel Imperiole, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately.

Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust.

Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

The International Diamond Dealers Consortium is meeting at the January Resort and Casino, which is owned by Jimmy Scanlan, a friend of PI Helen McCorkendale. The meeting will close with the showing of a rare huge red diamond, the de Groot Rouge, after which the diamond will go to New York where it will be on public display at the Minerals and Gems Gallery of the Museum of Natural History. Notorious jewel thieves are expected to try to steal the diamond, and PI Helen McCorkendale is determined to prevent the theft while she solves a related murder.

The action in this novel takes place partly in Las Vegas and partly in New York and both locations become characters in their own right. The detailed descriptions of every location in the novel make it very easy for the reader to visualize every moment in the thrilling plot. I really felt as if I were right there in the thick of things. It is a real shame that the January Resort is fictitious, because it would definitely be worth a visit even for those who don’t care for Las Vegas or gambling.

The transitions between Las Vegas and New York are done smoothly and naturally, so there is no trouble following the flow of the action. The pacing is good, with never a slow moment. There are surprises around every corner, with mysteries within mysteries. Helen is a gutsy, smart PI and I felt her character was very well drawn. The murder mystery is complex and I didn’t solve it until nearly the end. The mystery surrounding the diamond was much easier to figure out in advance, but it was enjoyable to watch it all play out.

Mystery lovers, especially those who enjoy a well-drawn setting, are sure to be captivated by this exciting adventure.

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