Short Change
Patricia Smiley

Penguin Group (USA) Inc
Hardcover/295 pages
ISBN: 978-0-451-22144-5
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". . .leaves you clueless until the end. . ."

Sometimes it is just darn good fun to read a murder mystery, especially one that leaves you clueless until the end. In Patricia Smiley’s fast-paced detective novel, Short Change the young, attractive and witty heroine, Tucker Sinclair, a management consultant, is snared into the hunt for Eve Lawson, a murder suspect, in a tightly woven plot.

Sinclair leaves the corporate world under “less than cordial circumstances” to assist private investigator Charley Tate with his failing business. Eve Lawson walks into the office alleging someone is following her. Hours later, Lawson disappears, her boyfriend Rocky Kincaid is murdered, and Tate is struck by a hit-and-run driver. From the hospital, Tate pressures Sinclair to sleuth around. “I hired you to save my ass,” he tells her. Sinclair needs the work, so she starts digging into Lawson’s life.

Lawson’s father, who suspiciously got rich quick in a California real estate deal in the 1940s, suffers from Alzheimer’s. His stepson, Kip Moreland, has taken control of the real estate company, Wildwood Properties, and is planning a major mixed-use development project, but he has a couple of problems. Lawson owns a critical parcel, and she is not interested in selling. Meanwhile the “horsey people” who own stables and use the nearby trails have organized a protest against the development. When Sinclair uncovers the fraudulent sale of Lawson’s piece of property, she winds up locked inside a trailer on the construction site with a time bomb.

Smiley adds complexity to the action through several subplots. Sinclair is involved in a legal battle with her aunt over a beach cottage she inherited from her grandmother. She is also trying to keep her love affair with Joe Deegan, a LAPD detective assigned to the Kincaid murder, a secret.

Smiley’s extensive use of dialogue in developing her characters is appealing and so is her easygoing story tone. Short Change is the ideal book on a four-hour flight without a good movie.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla