MYSTERY

Death in the Family

Berkley Prime Crime. Feb. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780593097892. $26. M
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DEBUT Despite some modern trimmings, this debut murder mystery is curiously old-fashioned, a throwback to Golden Age detective fiction, when sleuths such as Hercule Poirot and Philo Vance solved cases by observation, lots of talking, and sheer brain power. Here, the Sinclair family reunites for dinner on a private island in upstate New York. One son goes missing; there’s blood everywhere. Two detectives sent to investigate arrive just before a storm locks everyone in, isolating the house and eliminating hope of outside help. It’s up to lead detective Shana Merchant to solve the case by talking to suspects and ferreting out their secrets. But Shana suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of her imprisonment by a missing serial killer, and her over-controlling fiancé’s phone calls are undermining her confidence in her ability to solve the case. Suspicion shifts from suspect to suspect. There’s a second murder, and revelations about the state of the family fortune, various acts of hanky-panky, and who’s related to whom and how. The resolution, unnecessarily complicated, clanks at the joints.
VERDICT Wegert’s first foray into mystery may be met with limited appeal for lovers of the genre but is overall a valiant effort.

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