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Final Notice: A Miss Zukas Mystery    by Jo Dereske order for
Final Notice
by Jo Dereske
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 1998 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Miss Helma (Wilhelmina ) Zukas likes a nice, orderly life. She is always flawlessly turned out, her apartment is in apple-pie order, and she fulfills her duties at Bellehaven Public Library with serene efficiency. It is to her credit that she immediately volunteers to take in befuddled Aunt Em (her father's oldest sister) after the lady suffers a 'brain incident' of some kind. Even more admirable is Helma's tolerance when Aunt Em causes ripples in her niece's calm existence.

For a woman so addicted to order and precision, Helma frequently finds herself in messy situations. Her best friend Ruth is artistic, flamboyant, and heedless of consequences. Helma's relationship with police chief Wayne Gallant is also untidy. Worst of all, Helma is often embroiled in murder. In Final Notice, she is an innocent bystander. Aunt Em harbours a secret that is decades old (dating back to the days of Al Capone) and at the heart of the violent events that have recently beset her. Helma discovers that the 'brain incident' is the result of an assault on the elderly woman, and it seems that Aunt Em is also connected in some way to the young man found dead outside Helma's apartment.

It is a pleasure to watch the redoubtable Miss Zukas in action. Helma deals efficiently, as always, with criminal malefactors, the ditzy Ruth, threats from Gallant's ex-wife, family crises, and the ceaseless efforts of Ms. Moon (head of the library) to introduce New Age sensitivity (usually disastrous) into their smoothly-functioning workplace. Dereske now has several Miss Zukas mysteries to her credit, and never fails to entertain. Those familiar with the series will be amused to note that Boy Cat Zukas, the stray so reluctantly adopted by Helma, now has a bed in her apartment.

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