Friday, March 6, 2009

Antiques to Die For - Jane Cleland

In the third book of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series, Josie's friend Rosalie is found murdered. Rosalie leaves behind her 12-year-old sister Paige who Rosalie was raising after the death of their parents. Paige informs Josie that Rosalie told her they owned something valuable, but Rosalie didn't specify what it was or where it was. So Paige enlists Josie to inventory and appraise all of Rosalie's property in hopes of finding the valuable item.

Along the way in her appraisal process, Josie begins to uncover clues about Rosalie's life that may be clues to her killer. The likelihood that they are clues to her killer increases when Josie notices someone following her, then someone is leaving her flowers signed "from your secret admirer" and making harassing phone calls. If Josie doesn't uncover the truth, she may become the murderer's next victim.

The Josie Prescott books for me are the types of books that make magic happen with time. I'm sure you've all experienced one of these: you start reading and time just disappears. When you look up from the book, hours have gone by. You don't notice they've gone by because you've become so much a part of the book. I can tell you that one of the major ingredients in the magic potion is the characters. I love Cleland's characters. None of her characters come across as fake or flat or forced. From the shy, modest Eric to the bubbly Gretchen to the heartbroke, adolescent Paige, even the arrogant, womanizing Gerry. Cleland seems to be inside all of these characters' minds because their portrayals in her books are so spot on. I've known people like each of these characters and I had no problem believing any of their actions, thoughts, or dialogue. The characters are so dimensional, so real, that you expect them to pass you on the street, sit next to you on the bus, or stand in line in front of you at the grocery store. When you combine their realism with the relationships Cleland forms between each of them you have the recipe for that magic, the magic that makes time disappear.

Antiques to Die For has this magic in spades. I found myself especially appreciating the relationship Cleland sparked between Josie and Paige. Cleland has a way of developing her female characters so that they can be strong, determined woman but maintain their soft, emotional sides, too. And they don't become damsels in distress or bumbling broads. Instead they are real: feminine, intelligent, independent. And when they need to lean on their friends and family, they do so without shame.

Cleland has a subplot going on in this novel that lesser authors would wind up mis-using, but Cleland is able to weave it in just enough to make it part of the mystery and therefore an asset to the plot.

It is truly disappointing for me to reach the end of a Prescott tale. It's kind of like having to say good-bye after visiting a good friend. This visit wasn't so sad, though, because my next visit is right around the corner. I'm looking forward to Josie Prescott mystery number four, Killer Keepsakes.


darbyscloset March 7, 2009 at 1:50 PM  

Hi Jen,
I am going to check her out, I've never heard of her until your post.
Thanks for sharing!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

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