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By Mary Jane Maffini
Berkley, July 2010 ($6.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Charlotte Adams seeks to bring order to people's lives by organizing their closets, and business is good. Most of her clients are grateful for her help, but Lorelei Beachamp is not one of them. Her wealthy husband Harry has hired Charlotte to go through Anabel's seven closets, all stuffed to the gills with designer togs and accessories. He hopes it will help her get through the trauma of losing their daughter Anabel, who drowned in a muddy pool at a construction site. The police have labeled it a tragic accident, but Lorelei is convinced her daughter was murdered. Although she has no interest in organizing her closets, choosing instead to numb her grief with alcohol, she does ask for Charlotte's help to prove Anabel's death was no accident. Harry, who has the rather annoying habit of addressing her as "Charlotte honey" every time he talks to her, wants her to convince Lorelei her only child's death was just an accident. Charlotte, who has had some success as an amateur sleuth before, is inclined to agree with Harry, but the more she learns, the more things don't add up.
Not all of Charlotte's clients are wealthy socialites. She is hired by Wendy, a lady with limited means, whose husband and sons raised $100 to help her organize her humble abode. Charlotte provides service that normally costs far more than that, but it is such a pleasure to work with Wendy, who is always cheerful and down to earth, and a great cook to boot, that Charlotte doesn't mind giving her the discount price. The only trouble Charlotte has with Wendy is trying to convince her to part with a horrendous 1980's-vintage bright yellow bride's maid dress, something most women can sympathize with. We know it's hideous, but there's the sentimental value.
Charlotte's friend Pepper Monahan, a cop on maternity leave, is trying to cope with a newborn, and her husband Nick, who is a policeman and a womanizer, is usually nowhere to be found when she needs help. She tells Charlotte that things have gotten worse since the baby came. He no longer cares about his appearance, he is secretive and jumpy, and Pepper is at her wit's end. Nick tells Charlotte to butt out when he finds out Pepper talked to her, and it's obvious to her that something is seriously wrong.
It isn't long before her fears are realized. Pepper and Nick are both in trouble, and Charlotte's landlord/friend Jack is stuck with the baby. Actually, he is delighted to take care of the "little dude," but everyone hopes this will not become a permanent arrangement, and that he'll soon be back in his mother's arms.
This is the forth book in the Charlotte Adams series, and it is as charming and enjoyable as the previous three. The author's strength is in depicting realistic characters who come alive on the page. In addition to telling a good story, Ms. Maffini includes a bonus most of us will find useful: helpful hints for getting organized
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