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A Dime a Dozen    by Mindy Starns Clark order for
Dime a Dozen
by Mindy Starns Clark
Order:  USA  Can
Harvest House, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

This third in the Million Dollar Mystery series takes investigator Callie Webster to the lovely Smoky Mountains. Using her legal and PI skills, Callie evaluates prospective non-profit agencies to see if they should be funded by the JOSHUA Foundation. Callie is a young widow, whose religion influences how she conducts her life. However, this does not overshadow the books. It is just one of the facets of Callie's character. Another is her deep appreciation of nature, and readers will enjoy the scenery as she rows in mountain lakes.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series is learning about the various shenanigans practiced by non-profit groups - such as money-skimming by charity brokers and dishonest book-keeping practices. Since Clark's husband is a lawyer working with non-profits, the information feels very real. It certainly makes one more wary of charitable donations. In the three books to date, Clark has described smuggling of illegal aliens, geo-prospecting, and now migrant workers and the apple industry - adding an extra layer to her mysteries.

In this episode, Callie is investigating the grant application of her former in-laws, who run an outreach agency servicing migrant workers. Callie dreads returning to the area where she and her dead husband first met as teenagers, but she really would like to help her well-loved in-laws. Soon after her arrival, though, she realizes that the situation will be tricky, since the husband of one of the agency's workers has disappeared and there are several instances of improper business practices.

Then another (unidentified) body appears. Watching Callie approach the mystery is really enjoyable, since Clark excels at making the detective process feel down to earth and real. Much of it is through computer searches and seems actually do-able, as compared to the hand-waving, somewhat mysterious process we sometimes see in other books.

A Dime a Dozen is the best yet in the series, with a well-developed plot and just enough description of the setting to make one want to vacation soon in the Smokey Mountain area. By book's end Callie finally meets the mysterious head of the JOSHUA Foundation (they have emailed and talked by phone for many months). Let's hope that this means Callie will soon have someone in her life, after being a lonely widow for too long.

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