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Designed to Kill    by Denise Osborne order for
Designed to Kill
by Denise Osborne
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Osborne's delightful Salome Waterhouse is back, pursuing her vocation as feng shui practitioner and her avocation as solver of mysteries. Those who have read her previous adventures (A Deadly Arrangement and Positioned To Die) know of Salome's knack for stumbling over corpses. This time out, Salome encounters murder at a New Age conference. It is barely underway when various mishaps disrupt the proceedings, culminating in the discovery of a guest's body. Salome herself is unsurprised. The Star Institute is a feng shui disaster, negative energies abundant in too many areas. Nor is Carla Whitmore the only victim. The body of estate owner Tobias Ashcroft is found in the pumpkin patch, still clothed in his scarecrow costume, his throat slit by his own carving knife.

The cases are a potential P.R. bonanza for the politically ambitious fianc9 of Salome's cousin Phyllis. Both are police investigators, and at first appreciative of Salome's curiosity and knack for investigation. Their gratitude evaporates, however, when Salome decides to help Marcella Cruz, arrested for Ashcroft's murder. Marcella, poor and with a history of substance abuse, is an easy scapegoat; and her status as chief suspect is solidified by the discovery of the murder weapon in the house where she lives. Stubbornly convinced that Marcella is innocent, Salome makes new enemies in the form of Ashcroft's snobbish sister Ivy and Ivy's fianc9 Ross Prenderville. An old enemy also makes his presence known; and Salome is up to her well-meaning neck in complications, including the return of an old love whose family hates Salome's and whose feud has caused her family grief. She also finds that the easy-going Ashcroft had secrets for which others are willing to kill.

This likeable protagonist wades determinedly through a tangle of murder and personal woes, the author deftly weaving several story strands: Salome's latest murder, her personal life, and the unresolved problem arising from her previous foray into murder. As always, Osborne also provides fascinating tidbits of feng shui lore. Designed to Kill is an enjoyable read, with a cast of interesting characters. I found the list of possible suspects rather short, and the solution to Whitmore's murder almost perfunctory, but my interest was engaged consistently by Salome herself. We learn more about her personal history and her family, fascinating in themselves, and see again to what lengths the loyalty that is so much a part of the protagonist's character can take her.

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