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READERS WILL ROOT FOR MONEY-LOVING SLEUTH

SHARE READERS WILL ROOT FOR MONEY-LOVING SLEUTH

Jane da Silva has a problem: She's got champagne taste and a skid-row budget. What's really aggravating is she's heir to a fortune. But to get it she has to "right a wrong" and solve an "uncrackable conundrum" every six months.

It's no wonder she leaps at the possibility that Kevin Shea may have been imprisoned for a murder that he didn't commit. But it's not going to be easy; in his drugged haze, Shea doesn't know if he killed anyone. And if it weren't for the money, da Silva wouldn't care. Shea's not a very likable sort.Da Silva, on the other hand, is an extremely likable and interesting protagonist. She has been a little bit of everything, including an almost-talented lounge singer. But she loves to solve puzzles - and when the prize is a six-month shopping spree, she can't resist.

"Amateur Night" is the eighth mystery for Beck and the second in the da Silva series. It's also one of the best of the woman-detective genre that has become so popular.

Beck has a keen eye for detail and a real ear for dialogue. She also succeeds in creating a quirky but believable heroine. You can't help but root for da Silva.

There is one shortcoming. Beck gets a little carried away with the descriptions in a strip joint where da Silva goes looking for a witness. Recent entries in the genre have settled the sex, no-sex question: Lurid descriptions are not necessary to sell books. And in this case, they seem thrown in for only that purpose. It just doesn't further this entertaining and enterprising story.

The plot is interesting and original. It didn't need the extra "help."