Deed to Death
D. B. Henson

Simon & Schuster

Hardcover/288 pages

ISBN: 1-451649606

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". . . light without being filling and a good way to spend a summer afternoon."

Standalone mystery with more twists and turns than a crooked mile.

A few days before his wedding, Scott Chadwick goes to the top of a hotel his company is building and commits suicide. That is what the police tell Toni Matthews, and what her friends assure her was true. Scott, the man she knew so well and had planned a life with, was so despondent over the potential failure of his business that he took his own life. Toni does not believe them and she is determined to find out who killed Scott.

Was it Scott’s brother, who owed over two million dollars in libel damages because of an expose article he wrote? Was it Scott’s business partner, Clint Shore, who stands to gain the most from Scott’s death? Was it Nico Williams, who was at the site the morning Scott plunged to his death? Who among Scott’s friends, associates, and family killed him? The police do not believe Toni’s claim that Scott was murdered, but someone does; they are trying to kill her.

For her debut novel, D. B. Henson uses her own experience as a realtor working with construction companies to frame the murder that is central to Deed to Death. Henson knows the territory and uses it to good effect to create the why and how of Scott Chadwick’s death, and to give credence to Toni Matthews’ life outside of her relationship with her fiancé. At times, the details are a bit too much to carry the why of the mystery and are confusing when Toni attempts to unravel the details. Less would have been more in this case.

On the character side, Toni is well drawn and the picture she paints of Scott is complete with halo and golden light. Toni’s determination to keep hold of her vision of Scott in the face of so many lies, and the possibility that she did not know him at all, is admirable but unrealistic. Her one moment of anger is insufficient and superficial.

The rest of the cast is sketchy and provide little in the way of depth or texture. The characters are a watercolor background for Toni’s center stage performance and she wrings it for the very last drop of validation—from a distance.

There are plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings and the climax is satisfactory without being satisfying. Henson has the last word and offers a promise for the future that is all bright eyes and smiles, but lacks emotional punch. Given the flaws, Henson writes a story that is at first mundane and then shifts quickly into high gear with all the thrill of a summer blockbuster. The first half of the book is heavy with senseless action and needless description and picks up considerably in the second half.

Deed to Death is light without being filling and a good way to spend a summer afternoon. Henson’s debut is adequate with hints of more and better in the future as she moves away from familiar territory. In this instance, the mystery glass is definitely half full.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell