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Bell, Book, and Scandal: A Jane Jeffry Mystery    by Jill Churchill order for
Bell, Book, and Scandal
by Jill Churchill
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Jane Jeffry, Churchill's appealing amateur detective, is back in a brouhaha set at a mystery writers' convention. Fans of cozies will enjoy this foray into a world that the author probably knows very well. Jane, who has written an historical novel, is excited at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with some of her favourite authors. With her, as always, is her loyal friend, the redoubtable Shelley Nowack. And Jane being Jane, finds herself in the centre of nefarious doings.

After a very promising start – Jane becomes friendly with a writer she admires – she and Shelley soon find that the convention is teeming with unpalatable characters. An acid-tongued bully of an editor is poisoned (although not fatally) before an audience. An equally unpleasant reviewer who seems to have nothing good to say about any writer is bashed in the parking lot. If someone is taking it upon him- or herself to rid the convention of undesirables, the unknown assailant seems to be ignoring the singularly annoying Vernetta Straussman, a newcomer trumpeting her successful best-seller-to-be. And flitting about the convention, digging up dirt, is the anonymous 'Miss Mystery', whose tabloidesque exposés have several authors quaking in their boots. Jane, being Jane, is unable to resist probing into these mysteries. Shelley is there to aid and abet, although not always willingly. Not only do the two solve the various crimes, they also administer a well-deserved setback to Miss Mystery.

I found Jane's personal life more interesting than the mystery. She has grown in confidence and self-assurance. Although her family remains her first priority, now that her children are more independent, Jane can concentrate on her own interests and concerns. Her novel receives a promising reception from one of the editors she meets at the conference. She calmly rebuffs her overbearing mother-in-law's interference (this despite Jane's years of widowhood), and she is equally calm in the face of Mel's disapproval of her 'snooping'. (I have always found her police detective lover's attitude somewhat annoying.) In a sense the novel's ending reflects Jane's decisiveness, as she lets at least one mystery remain unresolved as far as the police are concerned. In short, Bell, Book, and Scandal delivers what fans have come to expect from Churchill: a pleasant diversion starring a lively heroine.

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