BETTER THAN SEX by Susan Holtzer
A MYSTERY FEATURING ANNEKE HAAGEN
Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Minotaur, August 2001
Lindsay Summers is a pretty terrible person. She is contemptuous for anyone who isn't slender, is working to promote legislation to tax fat, had an affair with a married man, and manipulates everyone she comes into contact with. Still, did she really deserve to be poisoned in a newly fashionable San Francisco sports bar? Although they are on their honeymoon, Anneke Haagen and Ann Arbor police lieutenant Karl Genesko pitch in to help the San Francisco police investigate. Better, they unleash their secret weapon, journalism student Zoe Kaplan.
Lindsay's death becomes a cause celebre as her boss announces a legislative proposal that would regulate America's diet and the corporations who profit from the food business. Militant vegans, restaurant venture capitalists, and ambitious chefs all have a stake in Lindsay's research and in her death. Even Anneke was annoyed enough at her for ruining her food enjoyment to wish that she'd just vanished--but don't worry, Anneke isn't the murderer.
While Anneke and Karl eat their way through San Francisco waiting for inspiration to strike, Zoe hits the mother-load back in Ann Arbor. Just about everyone in the sports bar had some past connection to Lindsay.
Author Susan Holtzer does a fine job introducing suspects and motives, each with just enough plausibility to throw off the reader (and the local police, of course). Her light touch with characterization works extremely well with the large number of sports bar suspects, each of which can be kept distinct in the readers mind. Of the three primary characters (Anneka, Karl, and Zoe), only Zoe really shines, however. Her hard work propells BETTER THAN SEX along while Anneka waits for inspiration.
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