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Out on a Limb: A Claire Malloy Mystery    by Joan Hess order for
Out on a Limb
by Joan Hess
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This is the fourteenth in the Claire Malloy mysteries by Joan Hess. True to form, Hess has produced another very enjoyable romp through the quiet college town of Farberville, Arkansas.

When a baby is left in a basket on Claire's doorstep, life's plans take a back seat to the needs of an infant, and of its absent mother, a homeless teenager. Take a land developer, a greedy wife, a tree hugger, a couple of teenagers who are both wise beyond their years and juvenile at the same time, a couple of wisecracking, young middle-aged shopkeepers, and a murderer - and you have the cast for a delightful read.

Claire and the police chief have an ongoing relationship that is fun to watch. His pleas for Claire to keep her nose out of the crime in Farberville fall on deaf ears. And her machinations to elude his scrutiny (but still not tell him a lie) are delightful. After all, Claire has a daughter to whom she wants to be a role model. However she feels compelled to solve the mysteries that lurk in Farberville's streets.

Joan Hess is a past master at her genre and the reader is the lucky recipient of her skill. The author's writing is tight, fast-paced and full of unusual characters who people the village of Farberville. The ending of Out on a Limb was a complete surprise to me but acceptable as the conclusion of a tale well told.

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