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A Quarter for a Kiss: Million Dollar Mysteries #4    by Mindy Starns Clark order for
Quarter for a Kiss
by Mindy Starns Clark
Order:  USA  Can
Harvest House, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Over the last several years readers have grown fond of Callie Webster, heroine of Mindy Clark's Million Dollar Mysteries series. From the first book (A Penny for Your Thoughts), Callie has established herself as a skilled investigator with a legal background, specializing in the nonprofit sector. She is also adventurous, deeply appreciative of the environment (especially when in her beloved canoe) and a devout Christian. This untypical combination is a welcome addition to the genre. One of the most appealing aspects of the books is their plausibility. Clark fills in detection details, so the reader can understand just how a trained investigator pursues her work. This is skillfully accomplished without allowing the book's momentum to lag in any way.

A Quarter for a Kiss starts out with Callie presenting a check from the charitable foundation for which she works to a surprised worthy group. This may sound corny but it is heartwarming - if only fiction as the old Millionaire TV show was. Callie is accompanied by her boss Tom, who has recently become an important romantic interest in her life. They have just finished a long vacation getting to know each other better. But then their happy mood is interrupted by a panicked call from the wife of Callie's old mentor Eli. Eli, now living a relaxed retiree's life in Florida, has been hit in an apparent random shooting, and his last words to his wife Stella before slipping into a coma were for her to call Callie and Tom. They rush to Eli's bedside and try to figure out what could have been the motive for the attack. Fortunately Eli taught Callie well, starting from her adolescence when she clerked in the office of his private detective agency. Although his condo has been thoroughly searched and trashed, she is able to determine where he has hidden key information for a new investigation. This takes the detecting duo to the Virgin Islands where Eli and Stella have a second home. Soon they realize that the mystery is far more complex and dangerous than they anticipated, and that it involves Tom's mysterious past, when he worked for government security agencies.

Clark has surpassed herself with A Quarter for a Kiss, which is a standout in this series. It combines the momentum of a thriller with the satisfying detective work of a mystery, while continuing the practice of setting each episode in a new location - the Caribbean setting is especially appealing to readers during the winter doldrums. As in earlier episodes, Clark leaves a tinge of uncertainty concerning Callie's future relationship with Tom. As this adventure ends, Callie overhears a conversation between Tom and the now-recovered Eli, which indicates that Tom knew her dead husband Bryan. Just as Callie (finally moving past her grief at losing Bryan so young) is ready to accept Tom fully into her life, it now sounds as if Tom knows more than he should about Bryan's accidental death. We will eagerly await book number 5 to see how this new turn is handled.

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