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Walla Walla Suite: (A Room with No View)    by Anne Argula order for
Walla Walla Suite
by Anne Argula
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Anne Argula's Walla Walla Suite (the second in a series) could be best described as a crotchety cozy. The series stars menopausal PI Quinn, an ex-cop from Spokane who's lived in Seattle since her ex 'let his cock run away with his conscience' and who's a firm believer in past lives. If you're looking for something different in a mystery, dip into this quirky new series.

Quinn mostly works for her friend Vincent Ainge, who has a tragedy in his past. Vincent is passionately against the death sentence, and is a mitigation investigator for defense attorneys. He tries to find anything in a perp's past that might prompt a jury member to vote for life in jail as opposed to execution by hanging in nearby Walla Walla state prison. Quinn and Vincent have offices in the Pioneer building, live in apartments nearby, and are both 'humbled to be facing a second half century.' Every Friday, they take Vincent's father Clinton, who has Alzheimer's - and a key role in the story - out to lunch.

Quinn is soon asked by another worker in the Pioneer building - Arnie Stimick, whose business is called Promotion in Motion - to search for his missing employee, young Eileen Jones. Quinn talks to Eileen's roommates and to her distraught mother Abby. Then Eileen's body is found, an arrest is made, and Arnie organizes protesters, Friends of Eileen, to work to assure the death sentence for young scumbag Randy, who confesses to the killing. But first Randy claims that he didn't do it and that a Mr. Voss could give him an alibi. When Quinn fails to locate the man, she assumes he's a product of Randy's imagination.

Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems and the author tosses in both surprises and violent action before the end. The story is enlivened by moments of morbid humor, as when Vincent, who's attracted to Abby, manages to get himself elected as President of Friends of Eileen, without disclosing that he's also looking for evidence to support mitigation of the killer's sentence. I found the background on mitigation investigation very interesting, though I also shared Quinn's perspective that 'there are always going to be some killers whose ticket ought to be punched.' Quinn is an intriguing new mystery protagonist, well worth following.

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