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A Deadly Arrangement    by Denise Osborne order for
Deadly Arrangement
by Denise Osborne
Order:  USA  Can
Prime Crime, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Salome Waterhouse (middle-aged, divorced, and struggling to keep her feng shui consultant's business viable) lives in the upscale coastal village of Holyrood. Her quiet life is disturbed when she is plunged into murder, with all the upheaval it can bring. The corpse was an artist who rented an historic mansion bequeathed to Salome by her grandfather. The victim's fame attracts media vultures, and the investigation into the brutal murder threatens to uncover long-held secrets.

It is refreshing to meet a smart heroine who does not stumble immediately into danger. The slam-bang opener sets the murder scene most effectively, and Salome demonstrates that she is quick-thinking and courageous. She discovers the body on her own property, the Perfume Mansion, a house she has refused to enter for years, on the first occasion that she breaks that rule. Salome pursues the investigation because of her own position as prime suspect and to cleanse the Perfume of the evil that she has sensed in it for decades, murder being its latest manifestation.

Salome is a an appealing protagonist, strong-minded, loyal to friends and family, and stubbornly determined. Her role as research assistant to her ex-husband, a best-selling crime writer, gives her some qualification as an investigator. She is a sincere believer in feng shui (briefly defined as the art of analyzing one's surroundings in order to make arrangements that optimize harmony and positive energy), which plays a role in the mystery. The story abounds with interesting characters: Salome herself; her cousin Phyllis, who is also Holyrood's police chief; Emily Harkin, local newshound; and numerous village residents, suspects and eccentrics. For a woman devoted to improving the positive aspects in others' lives via feng shui, Salome must contend with an exasperating variety of negative-minded people.

Osborne provides a lively view of Holyrood and its inhabitants. Her descriptions are vivid, the pacing quick and smooth, and she slips in necessary information subtly. Feng shui details add colour and provide insight into Salome's personality. The reader is caught up not only in Salome's progress in solving the mystery, but also as she involves herself in the lives of her friends and neighbours. Osborne has created a satisfactory mystery and an absorbing account of interesting people. A Deadly Arrangement is the first of a series, good news for those who make the acquaintance of Salome Waterhouse.

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