Two to Die For by Allison Brennan is a double novella with thrilling stories in both the Lucy Kincaid series and the Max Revere series.
The “two” in the title refers to the two novellas that make up this book. The first, Spiral, involves Lucy Kincaid and Sean Rogan. The second, Retired, features Maxine Revere. So this is a twofer review.
Spiral finds Sean and Lucy on their honeymoon in Vail, Colorado. Two whole weeks to relax and enjoy the new cabin Sean bought as a wedding present and vacation home. They attend the preview night for an art festival in town. Sean picks up some photographs of the area to hang in their home in San Antonio. Lucy finds a few items to give to friends and family for Christmas. Sean suggests splitting up the list and seeing who can finish first.
While they go their separate ways, each sees interactions that pique their interest. Lucy meets a woman who sells chainsaw carvings of bears. She’s fascinated by the art but saddened when she hears that this will be the last show. She wants to help the woman and her husband but has to meet up with Sean.
“Did you really get all the presents on your list?”
“Yes.” He grinned. “You think too hard, which is good—I see something I know will work and I don’t second guess myself.”
“I’ll help with your half of the list. We can shop tonight in bed.”
“Are we going to miss the reservation?”
“They’ll have another table. Now, can you put the bear carvers and painters and photographers out of your head for the rest of the night?”
He glanced over at her. Nope, she was still thinking. Of course she was, that’s what she did. She had more compassion in her little finger than most people, and he loved that about her.
“We’ll come back and buy more bears, okay?”
“Stop reading my mind” She blew him a kiss because his arms were full.
That night, the neighbor’s Golden Retriever puppy shows up at their door, cold and dirty. They try to return him, but there is no sign of the older man at his house. Did he get lost in the woods? Unlikely, as he’s a retired forest ranger. Did he fall and injure himself? Or did something more sinister happen? Of course, the honeymooners get involved in the investigation.
In a story of only 93 pages, I expect a fairly straightforward main plotline and just a handful of characters. There might be one subplot, but that would be stretching it. This author deftly juggles a missing neighbor, a kidnapped woman, the aforementioned artists, a rich and paranoid businessman, and an illegal mining operation.
How can all these threads be tied together? Not only does Ms. Brennan bring them together, she manages to weave them into a tapestry worthy of placement in an art show.
Expired finds Maxine Revere racing to Florida to be at the bedside of an elderly woman she met four years prior. While Max waits for Lois to wake up after surgery, she recalls the events which led her to Del Sol, an active community for retirees, at Lois’s urging.
Lois contacted Max because a close friend also living in Del Sol had become suddenly ill with flu-like symptoms and died. Unfortunately, older people do die from illnesses like the flu. What caused Max to get involved, however, was another bit of information.
She hoped Lois wasn’t completely delusional and made up the entire story of how her friend Dotty died under suspicious circumstances all because she was lonely and wanted attention. Max would find it hard to get angry at the old woman, but she would be irritated. She’d turned down three other potential cold cases because Lois had convinced her to come here.
“And when I talked to one of the other residents, he said it wasn’t just Dotty. At least six people have died of a sudden illness.”
Proving murder in a retirement community where the average age was over seventy-five was going to be difficult if not impossible, but Max loved a challenge.
Once again, Ms. Brennan expertly creates compelling characters. Some of the retirees assist Max in finding out what—if anything other than the most obvious answer—is happening to longtime residents of Del Sol.
The resolution of Expired is every bit as satisfying as that of Spiral.
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Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.
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