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The Goodbye Body: A Claire Malloy Mystery    by Joan Hess Amazon.com order for
Goodbye Body
by Joan Hess
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

The delightful Claire Malloy - widow, bookstore owner, inveterate snoop, and mother to a teenage drama queen - returns in this mystery featuring a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't corpse. Fans of Hess know that she can be counted on for an entertaining puzzle featuring quirky characters, and once again the author delivers.

This particular adventure starts innocently enough. Claire accepts with gratitude a customer's offer to stay at her luxurious home, keeping an eye out while the owner goes off to visit family. She is in need of a place to stay while her apartment is undergoing fumigation and repairs; and of course, staying with her significant other is out of the question. Claire shies clear of too deep a commitment, and Lt. Peter Rosen has already been mentioning the 'm' word. Staying with Claire are her daughter Caron and Inez, Caron's best friend, ally, and occasional partner-in-crime.

I adore Caron. At sixteen, she is lessening her tendency to speak in capital letters, but she continues to find herself in the throes of teenage angst, which leads her to unusual solutions. This time she is toying with the idea of finding a hit-man to take out nemesis Rhonda Maguire. (In addition to continuing to captivate Louis Wilderberry, Rhonda has apparently attached all of Caron and Inez's friends.) When Caron finds a corpse that subsequently disappears, she is incensed that no one specifically the authorities will take her seriously.

Claire herself finally spots the elusive corpse. Despite her best intentions to avoid snooping (for a change), she finds herself enmeshed in the tangles arising from her absent hostess's murky past. Reluctantly she extends hospitality to young relatives of her hostess, only to be rewarded with yet another corpse! As always, Hess enlivens the plot with antics that entertain the reader while complicating her characters' lives.

Claire has a knack for putting together odd bits of information to find the solution that eludes more mundane minds. The ending to The Goodbye Body is thoroughly satisfying - although I would also have loved to find out what eventually came of Caron and Inez's plan to upstage Rhonda Maguire.

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