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Pari Noskin Taichert: The Belen Hitch

 

Crescent Blues Book Views University of New Mexico Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0-8263-3915-8

Book: pari noskin taichert, the belen hitch
Pari Noskin Taichert's first book, The Clovis Incident, earned her an Agatha Award nomination. In The Belen Hitch she gives readers an even more tightly written book with a quirky protagonist, supporting cast of off-beat characters, and witty portrayal of the charms and problems of a small town.

The book starts with a bang -- a body anyway. Public relations consultant Sasha Solomon's current project calls for her to determine the best use of a former Harvey House for attracting tourists to Belen, New Mexico. Should it become a bed-and-breakfast with a re-creation of the Harvey House restaurant, as the train enthusiasts want? Or an art gallery?

Arriving in Belen to interview world famous but controversial artist Phillipa Petty, Sasha finds Phillipa dead in her studio. Sasha's mother, an old friend of Phillipa, asks Sasha to find out who killed Phillipa. Sasha agrees, despite her immersion in the Harvey House project and despite the strokes that cause her mother to keep forgetting that Phillipa is dead.

Outrage at the blasphemous use of religious images in her paintings seems the most logical motive for Phillipa's murder. But as Sasha discovers bitter animosity between the train enthusiasts and artists in Belen, she wonders if that led to Phillipa's death.

Of course, the detective in charge of the case fails to appreciate Sasha's meddling, particularly after he learns she withheld evidence. I wanted to give her a dope slap for that too. Yes, in the initial moment of shock following the discovery of Phillipa's body, Sasha could be forgiven for ignoring the potential importance of the photograph of her mother she found on the scene. But once they ruled the death a homicide and the studio became a crime scene, she still said nothing. No wonder the detective seems older every time she sees him.

To further complicate Sasha's life, and keep her on the road between Belen and Albuquerque, a psychic friend/client with a chance to go on national TV needs help becoming "camera ready." Problems arise with Sasha's mother and the questionable level of care the rehab facility provides. Sasha dumps her boyfriend. She finds her house burglarized. She uncovers other connections between her mother, Belen and a Nobel prize-winning author which, disturbingly, involve herself as well. Then potentially lethal medication appears among her mother's other pills. Nursing negligence or an attempt to kill her mother? Can it be connected to her mother's friendship with Phillipa?

Sasha -- no glamor gal but mature, a bit overweight and needing to her own advice on how to dress -- takes the reader an entertaining ride. Sasha keeps a firmer hold on reality than she did in The Clovis Incident, but she still remains a bit off center -- and addicted to canned whipped cream. It's also a whirlwind ride, with the tension winding ever tighter as the story races to the finale. The Belen Hitch left me a little breathless but looking forward to Sasha's next project.

Lee Killough

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