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By Anne Underwood Grant

Dell, July, 1999 $5.99
ISBN 0-440-22553-1

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick (12/99)

Sydney Teague is reminiscent of a lot of female sleuths. She's bright and independent and far too nosy for her own good. CUTTINGS, the third book in the series, finds Sydney's public relations firm at a florist trade show in Charlotte, North Carolina in what would be the springtime if it weren't for an unseasonable blizzard.

Tempers are pushed to the boiling point by professional rivalries and an already fiercely competitive market being squeezed by foreign growers in league with regional grocery chains. When she learns of yet another huge deal in the works, Sydney realizes that many small florists could go under, but not six feet under like florist Joel Fineman who drops dead while competing in a funeral flower competition.

Sydney's fella (who just happens to be the cop in charge) declares Fineman's death a sad but natural occurrence. He wasn't young, the stress of the competition, no gaping knife or bullet wounds etc., etc.. There really isn't cause to dispute this until Sydney finds a strange note among the crumpled calla lilies that broke his fall.

Two more people are murdered and Sydney follows the leads putting herself in danger. After a lot of running around in a southern snowstorm and dredging morsels of gossip from the memory of the requisite fading southern belle, the pieces fall into place. The murderer is caught, but not before one more person dies a messy death.

CUTTINGS diverges from the usual cozy ending when the heroine/sleuth doesn't forgive and forget, but gets on with her life in the tradition of the hard boiled thirties "dick." Grant provides enough cliches to be comfy but more than enough innovation to keep those pages turning.

If you liked KILLER MARKET, by Margaret Maron, this one is for you.

Other titles by this author include: SMOKE SCREEN and MULTIPLE LISTING.

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