"Rest for the Wicked" by Ellen Hart
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Restaurateur Jane Lawless has secured her P.I. license from the state of Minnesota, but it's a complexly mixed blessing as concerns her first case.
At least she can investigate the murder of her mentor's, ex-cop A.J. Nolan's, nephew outside of a Minneapolis strip club, while Nolan is touch-and-go in the aftermath of surgery.
The victim, an adopted son of Nolan's sister in St. Louis, has come up to The Cities seeking his older sister.
"Say what?" says everyone, theretofore oblivious to the fact that the vic had an older sister.
Oh, the secrets just begin there, and much of the action is pent up in the strip club, where Jane becomes fixated on one of the barkeeps.
Given the locale, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the steamier entries-- the twentieth, to be precise-- in Minnesota author Ellen Hart's Jane Lawless series.
Yes, indeed-- the snowdrifts may be crusting over outside, but the heat's rising inside the club.
As Jane prods into the murder, she learns that it's the tip of something much bigger.
So to speak.
While Jane is attempting to juggle her investigation with her restaurant concerns (one of them is suffering under some shoddy co-management), her best bud, Cordelia Thorn, is on the verge of erupting with big career news of her own.
Cordelia-- a cross between Marie Dressler and Tallulah Bankhead-- walks off with each and every scene into which she sweeps.
Just when Jane has taken to her couch with quilt and canine companion, Cordelia will pound at the door, demanding to learn the source of the divan-driven depression and, even better, offering solutions.
Hart's plots are inspired by those of traditional detective fiction, leaning toward the hardboiled. She never allows a dull moment in the story, which may surprise the reader at several interludes, particularly with a juicy closing twist.
Now that Jane's got her license, she's hell on wheels.
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