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Sacred Cows    by Karen E. Olson order for
Sacred Cows
by Karen E. Olson
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Annie Seymour is the police reporter for the New Haven Herald. After sleeping off a night of fun and frolicking, she gets an early morning call from her editor about a dead girl found in the street below the said girl's apartment. It turns out that the girl was a Yalie, which is not good for the school's image. And it gets worse - she was also an escort girl. Annie sniffs a hot story, and soon discovers all sorts of shenanigans, involving an assistant corporation counsel for the city.

This is Karen Olson's debut mystery. She is currently Travel Editor for the New Haven Register, and lives in North Haven, Connecticut, where the story takes place. It has been said that writers should write what they know, and Olson has done just that, with the result that the description of localities and politics of a small college town ring true. The story is fast-paced, with exciting action, interesting characters and a dash of romance, to boot. For the most part, the plot is logical, but some questions remain unanswered at the end of the book, like just why on earth an attractive, high-achieving student who was a legacy at an elite school was working for an escort service in the first place. Since she obviously didn't need the money, why? This is never explained, and her character is never fully developed for the story either, except as it pertains directly to the investigation.

Annie is a hard, no-nonsense woman, and has a smart mouth, too. Unfortunately, her use of colorful metaphors, to quote Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, is a bit too much at times. I'm assuming that the author was trying for an aura of toughness, but it's a little over the top. The mystery genre is bursting at the seams these days with tough ladies, from PIs to bond agents, but most of them, while letting an occasional word fly, don't resort to crudities as often as Annie. Overall though, this is a good first mystery, with strong plotting, solid dialogue and a real voice of authenticity. It won the Sara Ann Freed Memorial award for first time authors. I look forward to reading more of Karen Olson's work.

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