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Speak Now    by Margaret Dumas order for
Speak Now
by Margaret Dumas
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

There's a new kid in town. Her name is Margaret Dumas. And she is an instant hit. Her first mystery novel avoids the signs of the first-time author - the hesitation to plunge into the story, extraneous side paths that lead away from the plot, obvious clues that lead nowhere, the feeling that there is humor under the author's flying finger tips but none is evident. Not that these signs mean a bad book - they just make one look forward to the next one with the wrinkles smoothed out.

Speak Now has the wrinkles already smoothed out. The action moves forward at a delicious pace, all the characters keep up, and the climax is a satisfying one. Charley Fairfax, née Van Leeuwen, arrives back in San Francisco with a husband - she did not leave with one. Although proclaiming to be a meteorologist, Jack Fairfax's actions suggest a deeper occupation - when a dead body is found in their hotel's bathtub, he takes over as if this occurrence is old hat. Charley, owner of a reperatory theater, had spent the year in London learning all she could about running a theater company.

Dumas's sense of humor is intact and she is not afraid to use it. Her players are delightful and could possibly reflect the people who really work in the theater, both as technicians and actors. Simon, a member of the theater group who describes himself as 'omnisexual', is a work of art all by himself. Not to mention Charley, who is today's woman. She meets life head on and retains a sense of the ridiculous even when being held captive at gun point. Her love for her husband Jack is undeniable, although she suspects at times that he is more than he admits.

Charley's Uncle Harry is maddening, but easy to picture as the smothering protective relative. Flank is too much to be believed, but believe I did because he seemed so outrageous. Flank is described as looking like 'something between a Samoan hit man and a mastodon'. There is no lack of dead bodies as Flank, the bodyguard, works to prevent Charley turning up as one. Speak Now is a fun read from a new voice who sparked up my day.

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