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By Beth Groundwater

Five Star Press, 2007 ($25.95)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59414-547-6

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Claire Hanover is a bored, slightly depressed middle-aged housewife. Her kids are grown, her home-based gift-basket business doesn't take much of her time, and her husband Roger is a workaholic who's seldom at home any more. When he is, he hardly seems to notice her. She joins an aerobics class at the urging of her friends, to fill up some time and in hopes that if she tones her flabby body her husband might take notice. To her surprise, Enrique, the handsome instructor, takes a close personal interest in her. While his attentions are flattering, she has no intention of cheating on her neglectful hubby, even though her divorced friend Ellen encourages her to just go ahead and have a little fun. Oh well, what harm could come of a simple massage? At her house. In her bedroom. In her underwear.

Poor Claire always tries to do the right thing, but stuff happens... Pretty soon, Roger is charged with murder and immediately arrested. Claire believes in his innocence, even though she did see him standing over the body, gun in hand. The police aren't as understanding, and Rog is in big trouble. Claire sets out to clear his name, getting into some real predicaments in her zeal. She has some close calls, learns that drug dealers aren't totally bad, but breaking into a drug den can be hazardous and embarrassing. Everything comes out okay in the end. Claire is an endearing, kinda klutzy, amateur sleuth, and her gift basket business is a fresh and interesting facet of her character.

A REAL BASKET CASE is Beth Groundwater's debut mystery, and a fine one it is. It is not only entertaining, it is lacking in common rookie mistakes. Beth gives credit to the editor, Denise Dietz, for "polishing my prose until it gleamed." I think the prose was pretty shiny before Denise started on it.

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