Sunday, July 26, 2009

Murder and the Masquerade

Murder and the Masquerade:
Book 1 of the Dorothy Phaire Romantic Mystery Series

by Dorothy Phaire

(iUniverse / 0-595-44787-2 / 978-0-595-44787-9 / September 2007 / 316 pages / $18.95)

Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM

Dr. Renee Hayes is a married, 40+ Black psychologist working in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area who becomes embroiled in a murder case when a frantic phone call from a patient puts her right in the middle of a crime scene. Doctor-patient confidentiality issues are only one of Renee’s worries when the police arrive on the scene— because the homicide detective investigating the case is her lover.

Murder and the Masquerade, the first in a planned series by Dorothy Phaire, stems from a novel written by Ms. Phaire almost a decade ago that was later pulled from the market and revised to create this new romance/mystery novel. Phaire’s years of work on this novel have produced vibrant, believable characters facing the various personal and professional crises of Black professionals in the modern world. I found Renee Hayes, a successful doctor with an unsatisfying marriage and a desire for motherhood to be highly believable, as was Detective Degas Hamilton, a man a dozen years her junior who was drawn to her maturity and gentleness. Another major player in this cast is Veda Simms, a woman who has thrown away a husband and a daughter in pursuit of a love affair with a high-powered attorney, only to reach a breaking point five years later. Murder and the Masquerade is filled also with a cast of fascinating supporting characters that provides a rich backdrop for drama and romance, as well as contributing to the overall depth of the main characters.

Unfortunately, after a stunning prologue and a promising beginning in which the weeks previous to the murder are fleshed out, the central mystery fails to deliver. There are several plot holes, including important clues that are never explained and inconsistencies in the chronology of events. Toward the end of the novel, I felt the characters did not continue to act and respond as they did earlier in the book, and overall the solution to the crime did not satisfy. Nevertheless, this is a promising piece of work that should appeal to a savvy publisher. With a primarily Black cast, a complex and conflicted central female character, and an interesting premise for future sequels, I believe there is a target audience just waiting for a book like this. A good editor could clear up the inconsistencies, as well as the minor editing errors that appear throughout.
Murder and the Masquerade shows a great deal of promise, and I hope that we will see more from this author in the future.

See Also: The High Spirits Review
Dorothy Phaire's Authors Den Page
The Author's Website
Almost Out of Love by Dorothy Phaire
Reviews of Blind Delusion by Dorothy Phaire

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