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A Penny for Your Thoughts    by Mindy Starns Clark order for
Penny for Your Thoughts
by Mindy Starns Clark
Order:  USA  Can
Harvest House, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

A Penny for Your Thoughts is Mindy Starns Clark's debut novel, and the first entry in her Million Dollar Mysteries series. It will revolve around business investigator Callie Webber, employed by a charitable foundation to assess whether grant applicants should be awarded sizable donations. Callie must often use her background as a private detective to assess the legitimacy and integrity of a potential recipient as carefully as possible, researching all its financial and legal activities.

Clark has written a clearly plotted mystery with well-defined and distinguishable characters, using skills not always displayed in first efforts. Callie herself is portrayed poignantly as a young widow still struggling with her grief over the loss of her husband several years before in a boating accident. A devout Christian, she seeks strength and solace through her faith. However, non-religious readers should not shy away from this book as, first and foremost, it is a nicely done mystery and the religious aspects are not intrusive.

The focus of Callie's interest in A Penny for Your Thoughts is the Feed the Need organization, which is the sister non-profit company to Smythe Industries. Both Smythe & Feed the Need are owned by an old and dear friend of Callie's philanthropist boss Tom, Wendell Smythe. He has suddenly requested an emergency loan. Callie is dispatched to do a quick assessment and deliver the loan. However, almost as soon as she arrives, Smythe dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances which soon appear to be murder.

Callie discovers the body and is requested by the Philadelphia police to remain in the area for the next few days. Then Tom asks her to look into the death and the victim's widow Marion asks her to stay at the family's home. Both the Smythe adult children live with Marion - Judith who runs Smythe Industries, and Derek who runs Feed the Need, along with his wife and child. Callie is therefore perfectly positioned in the midst of the troubled Smythe family and soon observes many puzzling and alarming activities. As she investigates further she gets into progressively more dangerous situations before the mystery is finallly solved.

The plot is developed well and comes to a satisfying conclusion. Along the way, the reader gets glimpses of a possible future romance between Callie and her boss Tom whom she's never actually met. However, their many long and intense phone conversations have laid the foundation for what one hopes will be a more personal relationship in future books. The next entries in the series, Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels and A Dime a Dozen will be coming out soon, and I look forward to reading more about Callie's life and work.

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