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Marlene M. Bell
Copper Waters
Annalisse Drury and Alec Zavos are on opposite sides when a woman from Alec’s past presents him with his alleged son. Alec refuses a verifying DNA test, so a defeated Annalisse accepts a key to her dream cottage—a sheep station getaway on New Zealand—only this time, she runs headlong into two peculiar deaths: either accidental, or the deliberate acts of a crazed psychopath. Will she go back to Alec, or sacrifice him to find the killer?
Bell’s fourth novel featuring antiquities specialist Annalisse Drury lands her readers in small-town New Zealand for family drama and lots of sheep-related content. NYC-based Annalisse decides to accept an out-of-the blue invitation to visit Ethan Fawdray, possibly the last person to be seen with the “aunt” whom Annalisse recently discovered is actually her birth mother, at his family’s sheep farm in New Zealand. Annalisse leaves behind her almost-fianceé, jet-setter Alec Zavos, to settle the question of whether a previous girlfriend’s child is his, traveling instead with Alec’s friend, detective Bill Drake. Though Ethan’s family has information on Annalisse’s birth parents, their own family drama and the police investigation of the hit-and-run death of the driver who picks them up at the airport makes for a very awkward visit, even before a second suspicious death occurs.

Bell does an excellent job carrying the main plot at the right pace, introducing characters and incidents frequently enough to keep the energy up while still maintaining the bucolic, slightly lazy vibe of the sheep farm The explanation of the murder motives and execution surprises in its specifics while still feeling logical and supported by what comes before, especially the substantial amount of farming information relevant. Copper Waters will satisfy fans of both sheep and sleuthing stories.

Some heavy exposition up front is understandable, as it brings readers new to the series up to speed, though it slows immersion in the current situation. Personal plot elements, like the romance between Annalisse and Alec, continue without resolution, and the fast pace leaves little time for reflection. The mutual support in Annalisse and Bill’s relationship, meanwhile, is endearing, stirring warm feelings and readers’ connection with the hero. Sleuthing aficionados who love being led to a solution that relies on both technical and social clues, and fans of Bell’s ready for a middle story in Annalise’s arc, will find this story solidly on-point.

Takeaway: Sleuthing aficionados will find this story solidly on-point.

Comparable Titles: Leonie Swann’s Three Bags Full, Belinda Pollard’s Poison Bay.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-