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Three and one half moon gifSilver Dagger Mystery (Hardcover),
ISBN 1-57072-123-8

What better way to meet a private investigator than to find him lurking in the bushes watching you? Thus begins the relationship between studio singer Willi Taft and Sam Robbins. Well, actually, Willi meets Sam in the men's restroom and pulls a gun on him when his hands are full, so to speak. But count those as minor details in a well-detailed first novel Midnight Hour, by Mary Saums.

Book Mary Saums, Midnight HoursSam draws Willi into a murder investigation. This odd mystery ties to a 20-year old crime and connects to Willi's own life as well.

Feeling rather bored and misused in the music industry, Willi sets her curiosity free and indulges in a bit of sleuthing. But crime solving, a lonely business under any circumstance, proves even lonelier when Willi's friends walk away. She faces life-changing decisions, yet finds it tough to concentrate with bullets flying toward her.

Saums creates original characters and settings with quirky and interesting details. Although supporting characters deserve more fleshing out than the author gives, her main character, Willi Taft, defies the stereotypical amateur sleuth. We meet Willi "looking for love in all the wrong places," and she desperately needs a new life. For more than a decade, she sang back-up to Nashville's finest. One glitch in that lifestyle -- she hates country music.

Willi reluctantly accepts the big 4-0 milestone. But in celebration or memoriam, she decides to make being true to herself her priority. She asks hard questions and accepts the not always pleasant or easy answers. She deals with life, and in this novel, life rarely reflects happily-ever-after. She possesses a bit of the Biblical Job's stubbornness, abiding by her moral and ethical beliefs while the world dissolves around her. Yet, romance lives in Willi's dreams and heart.

Although a newcomer to the mystery genre, Saums writing credits include award-winning poetry and short stories. This novel's authentic music industry setting draws on the author's experiences as a recording engineer. (Saums worked on gold and platinum albums by Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett, Roy Orbison and others.)

Saums writes like she drives the lead car in the Indianapolis 500. Maintaining a trophy winning pace throughout, she slows down for curves and hits the brakes for life threatening situations. She eases readers across the finish line. They feel a sense of regret at the end, satisfaction for a memorable ride and anticipation for the next race, I mean, book. Saums brings a fresh voice to the mystery genre.

Dawn Goldsmith

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