Death of an Amiable Child
Walker, 2000 (2000)
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Reviewed by G. Hall
eath of an Amiable Child
is a promising first novel which was nominated last year for an Agatha award for 'Best First Mystery'. Since many readers are, of course, repulsed by fictional harm to children, it should be mentioned at the beginning that this is NOT about a murdered child. The title instead refers to a 1797 memorial statue of a child who died in the late 1700's. It forms the backdrop to some exciting action in the book.
he author, Irene Marcuse, is the grand-daughter of a well-known liberal Berkeley philosopher, and this shows in the novel, which can best be described as a mystery with a social conscience. Its heroine, Anita Servi, is a social worker for a non-profit agency servicing impoverished elderly people on the Upper West Side of New York City. She and her carpenter husband have a precocious adopted five-year-old daughter Clea. Marcuse has used her own life experiences as a social worker and resident of the interesting and ethnically diverse Upper West Side to create an unusual mystery. It stands out from a crowd, whose heroines are typically feisty single woman with cop boyfriends.
nita is pulled into the mystery when a homeless woman is found dead in the stairwell of her apartment building. She is not satisfied with the police's inclination to brush off the death as an accident. Then one of the elderly residents of the run-down apartment building (where many of Anita's elderly clients still live, and where the victim used to live) also dies under suspicious circumstances. Anita decides to investigate.
arcuse is a little weak in her ability to delineate her different characters and give them life. However, the book is well-plotted and has a satisfying conclusion. It will be interesting to see where the author takes this series next.
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