Book Review: Death by Romance, a Mystery by Anne Kennison

The Bottom Line: Death by Romance has it all: a deliciously devious criminal enterprise, a loathsome antagonist and a detective that will have you quickly wrapped around his finger. Janet Evanovich fans will find their new obsession in Anne Kennison.

Death by Romance bookRichmond Homicide Detective Ryan Hamlin may be just a few months from the mandatory retirement age, but he’s hardly looking forward to spending his golden years in a rocking chair. So when the CEO of Virginia-based Taylor Industries is murdered on a snowy Virginia night, Hamlin is grateful for the distraction.

Hamlin’s investigation naturally begins with Gordon Taylor’s beloved wife, Jessica. She’s beautiful, but oddly, is also a loner (as Jessica herself astutely observes, after Taylor’s death, “there would be no casseroles from concerned neighbors this time”).

Hamlin soon uncovers a mysterious company called Romance, Ltd, registered in North Dakota. Perhaps the most morally audacious matchmaking service on earth, women such as Jessica are referred to as “Investments,” and for such women, no expense is spared in making them more alluring through college courses, “fat farms,” etiquette lessons or other means. Romance, Ltd then makes its money one of two ways: divorce or death.

A deplorable business, to be sure. But that said, is Jessica Taylor capable of murder? That’s the question Hamlin soon finds himself faced with. Fortunately, Kennison has created a brilliant cast of possible suspects that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Amongst a sea of homicide detectives in the mystery & thriller genre, former attorney Kennison pulls off the rare feat of creating a protagonist that is both sage and fallible (and sometimes hilariously so – while sleuthing in the Virginia suburbs, Hamlin mistakes a key player for a maid, wondering, “wouldn’t there be a separate servants’ entrance?”). ]

Let’s hope Hamlin can find a way to stave off retirement for a few more years. Death by Romance is highly recommended.

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