Liz Helmsley is naturally nosy. That's probably why she's known internationally for solving crimes. The bulletin board in the red double-decker bus, now a bookmobile, highlights her most famous cases. The last case she worked on changed her life. That's when she met and married Samuel and moved to his farm in nearby Georgetown, Texas. After she retired from her job as director of library services in Austin, Texas, he bought the bookmobile for her so she could continue being close to books and readers. She now works with the city library to provide bookmobile service in Sun City, an active adult community in Georgetown.
James Jones is a Vietnam War veteran who continued to fight the battles long after the war ended and everyone went home. His encounters are mostly in his head today, but if the military took senior citizens, he'd sign up without batting an eye. Combat was what he did best and he is lost without it. Now, as a soldier of fortune, James ends up in Sun City also.
This story is about what happens when Liz and James cross paths.
The story begins with Liz finding Sharon, one of her patrons, dead. Liz calls the police and stays in the bookmobile in front of Sharon's house until the body is taken away. James watches from the woods behind Sharon's home. He is confused about the situation, but knows he must not show himself. However, Liz spots him. She doesn't see enough to identify him. Just enough to make her wonder.
The police call the death accidental, but Liz suspects foul play because of bruises she saw on Sharon's arms and because of the face she saw in the woods. Liz decides to check on the death herself, but she first needs to convince Samuel that it is okay to hire her grandson, Michael, to work with her on the bookmobile. She needs him to help her with the computer research.
With Michael's help, she finds Sharon's husband Dennis living in an assisted-living home in Temple, Texas. She meets with him to talk him in to requesting an autopsy only to learn he's had Sharon's body cremated. However, he asks Liz to clean out the house in Sun City and another the couple had in Salado. Liz agrees so that she can investigate the case more. She also learns Dennis has a daughter named Kim who is a nun in South America.
Meanwhile, James picks up a woman in the pub and convinces her to loan him her car for an appointment with the VA in Temple.
While cleaning the houses, Liz and Michael find a number of antique religious artifacts. They move the findings to Liz's barn for safekeeping. But, after someone tries to break into the barn, Lt. Bratton suggests they call in the FBI's Art Crime Team.
Kim appears and we learn she isn't a nun. However, she worked at churches in South America and used James to ship stolen artifacts to her mother's house thinking she was too senile to know what was going on. Sharon had given some of the artifacts to her next door neighbor Margie and Kim, with the help of James and a crooked antique dealer, kidnaps Margie to get the stolen items back.
There are more twists as well as deaths in the usually calm Sun City.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 5 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10
Plot:The combination of the theft of religious objects, a fractured family and the issues raised by memory loss and PTSD make for a lively, though not always coherent story, especially toward the end of the book.
Prose/Style:This author provides solid, clear language, a steady tone and nice asides that give the main character depth and personality.
Originality:The reliance on the stereotypically traumatized Vietnam veteran as a figure of limitless violence offsets some of the clever uses of fake identities and memory loss that make this book memorable.
Character Development:Liz Helmsley is an appealing, occasionally wordy "old-lady detective" and a cheerful narrator. Many of the secondary characters, particularly Kim and the deranged vet James Johnson, would benefit from the same depth and charm.
Date Submitted: April 03, 2019