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Deadly Appraisal: A Josie Prescott Mystery    by Jane K. Cleland order for
Deadly Appraisal
by Jane K. Cleland
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Deadly Appraisal, the second in the series (following Consigned to Death), is my first encounter with antiques appraisor Josie Prescott. We learn that she moved from New York City where she worked for an auction house (until she testified against her boss in a price-fixing scandal) to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she has established her own business, Prescott's. Her police chief boyfriend Ty is unfortunately mostly out of the picture in this episode, dealing with his aunt Trina's serious illness in Los Angeles.

Trying to give back something to the community, Josie is hosting a benefit Gala for the Portsmouth Women's Guild in her auction hall. The event goes swimmingly and is 'on track to be a roaring success' until Guild representative Maisie Gaylor suddenly drops dead as the winning bids are about to be announced. Who poisoned Maisie, and was she really the target or was it Josie? Perennial pencil-tapper Detective Rowcliff's first question to Josie is, 'Did you kill her?' The bad-tempered detective goes from bad to worse, seriously annoying her at every encounter.

An attack on Josie and a robbery at Prescott's complicate the situation further, leave the poor woman wondering whether she can even trust her own employees. In between meetings with her lawyer and brief police interrogations, she has semi-secret meetings with bumptious journalist Wes - walking a narrow line between giving him information and exploiting his sources, hoping to find out what's going on before the killer gets to her too. As Josie bounces peripatetically between her job and a series of meetings with Rowcliff and Wes, the picture of what really happened slowly forms.

Though I was somewhat irritated by the one dimensional investigating officer and the heroine's odd relationship with journalist Wes (continually at his beck and call), I very much enjoyed the informative background - on the acquisition, appraisal and sale of antiques - to this cozy mystery.

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