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Helen Hath No Fury    by Gillian Roberts order for
Helen Hath No Fury
by Gillian Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2000 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is number 10 in the Amanda Pepper Philadelphia mysteries that began with Caught Dead in Philadelphia. The story centers around Amanda's upscale book discussion group and it's very clear from the author's descriptions of their meetings that Greber (aka Roberts) is basing group interactions on personal experience. In fact she mentions that this is the case in an addendum to the novel.

The stage is set during a book group evening in which they discourse with passion on and off the set topic. Roberts makes the perspicacious comment through Amanda that 'Good books are like Rorschach tests. What each person finds on the page depends on what she's brought along with her.' This comment alone made reading the book worthwhile for me.

The day after this group session, one of its members, Helen commits suicide and falls from the roof of her home into a dumpster. This does not ring true to Amanda, given that Helen had spoken out vehemently against a fictional character's suicide the previous evening. As usual, Mandy leaps into the fray and starts to uncover all kinds of surprises about the women that she thought she knew.

Susan, Amanda's closest friend in the group has an ongoing mystery in progress (could this be the author poking fun at herself?) and continually regales her friends with the story of Polly Baker, made up as a practical joke by Benjamin Franklin. Polly also turns out to have an important role in illuminating the modern mystery.

Alongside the murder story, Roberts develops the relationship between Amanda and Mackenzie, who makes frequent and usually negative comments on the marital state. And in a bit of role reversal he seems finally to be taking Mandy's investigative abilities more seriously at the same time as becoming jaded with the cop business himself.

For me, reading Amanda's stories is like settling down in an armchair in a comfortable pair of well worn slippers. She entertains in a familiar fashion with no big surprises, though the tone of this one was perhaps a little more serious than her previous stories. Speaking of which, after books full of countless absurd guesses from Amanda, the reader is finally clued in on the true names behind Mackenzie's infamous initials ... no, I won't reveal it here, you'll have to read the book!

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