"Pumped for Murder" by Elaine Viets
Obsidian, 292 pp., $23.95
Reviewed by David Marshall James
This tenth "Dead-End Job Mystery" proves that the series is ripening nicely with age, most unlike the boxed wine that the protagonist's landlady, Margery, imbibes during her "sunset salutes" at the Coronado Apartments in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Part of the reason for the series' ongoing likability is that author Elaine Viets allows progress in her protagonist's, Helen Hawthorne's, life.
Helen has overcome being an embittered divorcee on the lam from her ex-scuzzband in St. Louis. He wound up with a ridiculous judgment for half of all Helen's future earnings, even though he was the one who was blatantly unfaithful.
Determined to deprive him of cent-one, Helen went AWOL on her life and high-paying position in St. Louis, driving off into the sunset, and ultimately landing at the "sunset salutes" at the Coronado.
As the series has progressed, Helen has dabbled in an array of dead-end jobs, accepting cash-under-the-table in order to remain under the ex's radar.
Eventually, he caught up with her, and Helen returned to St. Louis in the previous novel in this series, "Half-Price Homicide," to take a stab at solving the divorce-decree issue.
That she did, only to create another, more serious problem-- one that rears its ugly head in this latest outing.
However, that's only part of the plot, which finds Helen and her new, much-improved-model husband, Phil, landing two cases for their just-launched P.I. business.
One case-- tipped by Margery, the wine-box tipper-- involves her auto mechanic and his quest for answers concerning the shady suicide of his younger brother twenty-five years ago.
The other case, tipped by another Coronado resident, is much more along the lines of that which P.I.'s often investigate: a supposedly philandering spouse.
That has Helen taking another dead-end job (well, it might lead to something if she would go truly Hans-and-Franz about pumping herself up into Ahnuld-esque buffdom) at a tony fitness center, where the suspicious husband is spending a ridiculous amount of time, even for a workout fanatic.
Viets does fine by her multiple storylines. The recent trips back to St. Louis have added a nice zest to this and the previous novel, and the tart humor complements the narrative like the lemon wedges that accompany the complimentary ice water at the fitness club. It's a mystery that goes down as easy as a refreshing poolside libation at the Coronado "sunset salutes."
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