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Relative Danger    by Charles Benoit order for
Relative Danger
by Charles Benoit
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Douglas Pearce, a bottle filler at a brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania for eighteen years, is content with his lot in life. Or he thinks he is content. Lady Luck steps in when he is fired from his job (the bad news) and subsequently a woman in Toronto hires him (the good news) to find out who killed his own uncle, Russell Pearce, fifty years before in Singapore's Raffles Hotel. Russell was killed while taking part in a diamond smuggling scheme.

Russell had always been the black sheep of the family, whom no one would discuss with Doug. Doug takes up his dead uncle's trail in Casablanca, moves on to Cairo, and ends up in Singapore. I can't in good conscience reveal any more of the plot. It's too good to give away. I will tell you that Doug is a very likable but rather innocent guy from Pottsville, PA. He manages to mix with some unsavory characters who are marvelous to read about.

The action starts on the very first page and continues through to the end. Doug manages to survive every obstacle put in his path and solve the mystery of a missing red diamond. As a bonus, he names his uncle's killer. He's the rough and tumble Indiana Jones with just a wee touch of James Bond's sophistication thrown in for good measure. It's a delightful first novel, one that is hard to put down. Benoit has to have taken some wonderful trips to be able to bring the teeming souks of Casablanca and Cairo, and streets of Singapore to such compelling life.

The denouement is well done. The usual listing of all the clues hidden in the text is there, but written without the usual ho-hum endings that characterize so many mysteries. And even after all is said and done, there is one more surprise. I do hope there are plans for Douglas Pearce to return in another mystery - this was a fun book.

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