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Two  and one half moon gifKensington Books (Hardcover), ISBN 1-57566-550-6
Evan Marshall throws everything but the kitchen sink into his second Jane Stuart mystery, Hanging Hannah. This cozy contains Winky (cat genius), a cute kid, widows, orphans and a knitting group called the Defarge Knitting Club. Add in a Madonna-esque movie star, secret rooms, several murder methods, a handsome (unmarried) police detective and a plethora of obnoxious authors. Plus, don't forget a cozy mansion romantically named Hydrangea House. 

Book: Evan Marshall, Hanging HannahJane Stuart, literary agent and owner of Kenneth Stuart Agency, resolutely cares for her son, Nick, carries on her dead husband's business and prepares to move on after more than two years of mourning. Jane indulges in her passion for knitting every other Tuesday at Hydrangea House with the members of the Defarge Knitting Club. (If you want to know what projects each member works on, details of their families, relationships and problems, read the book. It catalogues everything.) 

But, peace shatters during a scavenger hunt at Hydrangea House. Jane's young son finds the body of a woman hanging from a tree, her face garishly painted. The dead young woman, a stranger to Shady Hills, starts Jane on a convoluted trail of clues, mishaps, seemingly unrelated experiences, more deaths, plus encounters with colorful characters that eventually lead directly to the murderer.  

Book: Evan Marshall, Missing MarleneJane's daily literary adventures and clients (based on the author's experience as literary agent) add color, excitement, authenticity and yet another twist or two to the story of murder in a small New Jersey town. The face of the murder changes dramatically from the opening scene showing Jane's distaste for marigolds in her salad and pretension, to the final confrontation when the murderer (a chameleon-like character) unmasks.  

Marshall, also author of The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, composes a charming little cozy with shades of Phyllis Whitney-style plotting. But sadly this novel lacks Whitney's finesse at foreshadowing, tension and her intricate writing style. This gossipy tome, rife with superfluous detail, leads readers on a merry chase for clues and facts, and forces them to choose what is important to the mystery and what is merely chit chat. Yet, Marshall presents a delightfully original mystery plot and a well-disguised murderer. Wherever Jane goes, death follows.  

For readers who aspire to be writers, Marshall provides an interesting glimpse at writer-agent relationships and an idea of how literary agents spend their days and nights. He also demonstrates what works and doesn't work in a mystery novel.  

Dawn Goldsmith

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