Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella

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Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The third Annie McHugh novel about the Dublin-based detective agency is a cracking good story although the characterisation is rather weak. It's an enjoyable light read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 978-0099469407

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Annie McHugh's lover and business partner is summoned to Arizona by his ex-wife, leaving Annie in charge of their Dublin-based private investigation agency. It's what she's wanted for a long time, but the reality is more frightening than she expected. The investigation into a suspect insurance claim made by a popular local character means that she's saddled with the enigmatic Sizemore (who might or might not be what he seems) from the Insurance Company. Add to this some dirty phone calls from a pervert who seems able to find her wherever she is and some difficult colleagues with problems of their own and it's easy to see that Annie has her work cut out.

I did wonder if I was going to like this book. Annie's a likeable enough character, but not what I would think of as private investigator material. She's emotionally insecure, a flibbertigibbet and hardly methodical in what she does. I could see that she was going to annoy me. She faces the possible break-up of her business and personal relationship with the absent Gerry without a flutter of the heart or a tear and has some rather strange two-dimensional friends and colleagues. For me the only character who came across as being fully-formed was the enigmatic Sizemore. Characterisation is not Maureen Martella's strongest point.

It's a cracking good story though. Once I'd got through the first third of the book and all the characters were clear in my mind I found it was a real page-turner with a clever solution that I didn't spot at all. The pace of the story is good with a real balance between dialogue and description. All the different sub-plots (although, in fairness, there aren't that many of them) are neatly pulled together with nothing feeling at all contrived.

This is the third Annie McHugh novel, but I had no problem in reading it as a stand-alone book as everything that you need to know is recapped in the early chapters. I suspect that there will be a sequel - the ground has been laid but not too obviously - and if it came my way I would almost certainly read it.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book.

If this type of rather light-hearted crime story appeals to you then you might also enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, or Sara Banerji's Blood Precious. If you're looking for women's fiction set in Ireland we can recommend Maeve Binchy's Evening Class, but for a meaty detective story set in Dublin then you really couldn't do better than Benjamin Black's Christine Falls.

Buy Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Friends and Lovers by Maureen Martella at Amazon.com.

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Jill said:

I haven't heard that word flibbertigibbet in a month of Sundays! It's a brilliant word and should be used much more often.

Sue said:

They're an endangered species, you know.