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Three moon gifAvalon Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0-8034-9429-7
Maggie Browne, retired homemaker, quilter and mother of four adult sons reflects many of romance writer Annette Mahon's interests, right down to her involvement in the quilt raffle at her local church. But the serene course of Maggie's life takes an abrupt detour when her sons' childhood friend turns up dead near the Browne family's desert ranch. Who brutally ended his life, and why?

Book: Annette Mahon, A Phantom DeathDetermined to find the answers, Maggie gets support and help from the circle of women in her church quilting group. But the more Maggie learns about the victim, who starred as the Phantom with the Phantom of the Opera Troupe, the more she realizes how much he changed from the innocent preteen who left Scottsdale so long ago.

Theories abound. Several of the victim's fellow actors come under scrutiny as capable of murdering for jealousy or to further careers. Another idea suggests the murder resulted from a car-jacking gone wrong. When the victim's mother arrives on Maggie's doorstep, she looks suspicious too. Maggie perseveres and gets answers to her questions, but those answers don't bring a satisfied resolution, only sorrow over wasted lives.

Mahon writes a first mystery filled with ordinary people doing ordinary things, living in the midst of desert beauty and economic comfort. Although her somewhat one-dimensional characters lack exotic flavor, they prove likeable. Quilters will recognize the familiar environment of a quilting circle as well as favorite patterns and techniques. Plus, the author includes an addendum explaining how to make a signature quilt, similar to the one mentioned in the story.

No gratuitous sex or violence, no psycho killers, no ax murderers jump out at readers. Mahon writes a quiet cozy that speaks of family and her favorite things, reminding readers of the tranquil life many baby boomers now embrace. Readers of cozies should appreciate a visit to this kinder, gentler neighborhood where murder and violence rarely happen, and murder investigations take place at barbecues and over applesauce bread and tea.

Readers who enjoy a spicy whodunit set in an exotic locale with street smart, hard-edged characters and graphic details, terror and high adventure should look elsewhere.

Dawn Goldsmith

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