A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders (Minotaur, 2017) is the third in the Samantha Clair contemporary amateur sleuthe mystery series set in London. Samantha Clair is an editor with an established publishing company who lives part-time with a police detective. Let me say for the record that I am more than a little tired of the mandatory police detective boyfriend in amateur sleuth stories. Yes, it makes a convenient venue for obtaining information that the general public is not supposed to have. But still, if authors are creative enough to manufacture plots and people, one of them can surely devise another way of getting information, like having a 13-year-old computer whiz from next door break into the police network. At any rate, this particular arrangement actually sounds like the kind of accommodation adults might come to. He is out at all hours and when he finds himself closer to his home than Samantha’s, he stays there, giving her some much-needed space. He does not have access to all police information either, as is the case in real life.
Initially there appears no real cause for police interest. A neighborhood organizer reports that someone in her apartment house is missing but since he is an adult, everyone assumes he will show up sooner or later. The neighbor is one of those holy terrors who can convince anyone to do anything through sheer force of character and in no time Samantha buckles to her demand to help break into the missing man’s apartment. They find nothing out of the way there and remain puzzled until a few days later when his body is found in a burned house with drugs and a large amount of cash. The police assume that he is a drug dealer caught in a fire he set to hide his illicit activities. None of the people who know him can see him as a drug dealer, but the police just point to the contraband when they protest.
On the job front Samantha is appalled to learn her company has hired consultants to reorganize their work with no real understanding of what it involves. The scene where the editors meet with the consultants spouting jargon and waving PowerPoint presentations is so true to life it’s clear the author has endured a few of these attempts at corporate restructuring. Samantha’s assistant encounters every publisher’s nightmare when she fact-checks an autobiography the firm paid mega bucks for and finds little truth in the manuscript.
The characters are a big reason I enjoyed the book so much. Nice people with recognizable quirks, we all know folks like them. Well-written and witty, the book moves smoothly back and forth between publishing crises and the murder/arson investigation and ties it all up with an unexpected resolution that could have been foreseen had I paid a little more attention to the deviously placed clues. Do add this book to your To-Be-Read list.
· Hardcover: 320 pages
· Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 21, 2017)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1250087821
· ISBN-13: 978-1250087829
Aubrey Hamilton © 2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.