Death Is in the Details
by Alex Winter
Marnie Wallace, a soon-to-be unemployed researcher for a private investigator, has a problem. It's not just that she's overweight, has a domineering mother or a stalled career. She thinks she knows who killed her client's niece, known by the press as the Georgetown Jogger... but, no one will believe her.
As she packs up her just-retired boss's office, two cases fall into her lap which she takes on in his name but without his knowledge. The second case involves a private school headmaster who goes missing ... at the same time that a big chunk of the school's funds and his secretary also disappear. The search takes on new energy when Wallace learns that the secretary's boyfriend is a member of a sophisticated militia group, and, that the missing headmaster has been having an affair with the wife of one of D.C.'s most powerful real estate developers.
As gray, damp winter descends on Georgetown, Washington's affluent, self-important enclave, Wallace pulls together a team of eccentrics to help her: Julia, a reclusive, witty African-American computer whiz, Yo-Yo, an expert but unintelligible safe cracker, Jo Lee, a sexy Chinese film student turned bodyguard, and, Willy Clark, a Washington society matron who is Wallace’s godmother.
Wallace is stalked by an ex-SAVAK executioner, driven out of her home, and, puts in danger the people closest to her. Follow Marnie Wallace through the seamy underside of a prestigious private school, an All Souls costume bash with the rich and powerful of the nation's capital, and, a late-night break-in with her curious entourage into the sinister 'Dallas Palace' mansion looking for clues which may solve a case that she believes was a murder, clues which may prevent her own violent death.
Wallace's own complex personality unfolds through visits with her rootless happy-go-lucky father and socially- rigid mother, and through her reflections on her contrasting affections for good-looking Sean Devon, who may be working with her adversaries, and enigmatic Jo Lee, who comes from a vastly different culture.
Death Is in the Details is a fresh, urbane mystery, light on gore and full of plot twists which will appeal to readers of Sue Grafton, Sara Peretsky and Margaret Truman. The novel is more than a drawing room mystery because it contrasts the old Washington and the new, avoiding political issues and delving into motivations behind the decisions of those who play Washington games. Above all, it is rich with people. Even the most casual characters in this intricate novel are fully fleshed-out and original.
- Alex Winter, February 2012
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