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Dark Aura    by Diana O'Hehir order for
Dark Aura
by Diana O'Hehir
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Welcome to peaceful Stanton's Mill, a small northern California community on the Pacific coast, a town that is full of rumors, secrets, counter-rumors, and a plentiful assortment of eccentric and counter-culture residents.

At least one other thing sets Stanton's Mill apart from all other similar west coast towns that seem to have gotten lost in the 60s and 70s: this is where a small number of very special spiritually and intellectually gifted children have been born but are now nowhere to be found.

Then, much to the chagrin of everyone in town, Tamina Kerry, apparently the teenage mother of one of these unique, dark aura children, is about to make an important announcement to everyone in the town, but she suddenly dies in what appears to have been a tragic accident when she falls nearly twenty feet into a streambed at the bottom of a craggy gulley.

But Carla Day is not convinced that Tamina's death was an accident. As a part-time deputy sheriff, full-time director of a senior citizens' residence, and daughter of Professor Edward Day, an elderly Egyptologist who is now beginning to suffer the effects of Alzheimer's, Carla - based in part upon knowledge discovered through her father's friendship with the dead girl - believes that Tamina may have been on the verge of revealing a disturbing secret, and someone in Stanton's Mill was determined to keep her quiet.

Paradoxically and simultaneously helped and hindered by friends and acquaintances, Carla must deal with a variety of people (as potential witnesses and sources of evidence) who are enthusiastic, emotionally overwrought, chemically dependent, fiercely secretive, certifiably peculiar, obstructive, forgetful, or downright dangerous.

In the end, though, Carla - especially with the help of her father and her boyfriend - will make a mind-boggling discovery about Tamina and the missing children.

Provocative and compelling, Dark Aura is author Diana O'Hehir's third top-notch novel featuring Carla and her father, an unusual pair of sleuths. When the Days first appeared in Murder Never Forgets, the Boston Globe reported 'the narrator's acerbic, funny, insightful voice makes what might have been just another cozy unforgettable.' Like O'Herir's second installment, Erased from Memory (which Publisher's Weekly praised in understatement as having a 'well-crafted plot and an engaging cast of characters'), Dark Aura is all of that and more: it is another solidly entertaining mystery.

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