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By Diana Killian

Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 042523391X
ISBN-13: ISBN: 978-0-425-23391-7

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

A.J. Alexander knows it isn't going to be a good Easter Sunday when she trips over a dead body on her mother's front walk, slides on wet grass and spilled Easter eggs, and injures her back — again. She manages to get to her cell phone to call her mother, who should be at home, but there is no answer. She wonders why Mom is not busily cooking Easter dinner and prays that she is okay. Then she rings up her beau, police detective Jake Oberlin, and soon hears the welcome wail of sirens. Jake arrives first, rushing to see if she's all right. She isn't — every move she attempts sends excruciating pain through her body. She's pretty peeved about that: she'd had back problems before, but after a year of practicing and teaching yoga at Sacred Balance she was in tiptop shape. In the midst of her pain she remembers the reason for her fall. She doesn't recognize the young man whose expensive suit coat is spoiled by a bullet hole in his back, but her mother Elysia does. Clasping a shopping bag, she rushes over to the body and exclaims "that's my blackmailer!" Oops, not the best thing to say in front of a yard full of cops.

Elysia, a former model and actress, knows how to make a dramatic entrance, but when she's suspected of murdering Dakarai "Dicky" Massri, her outrage is not an act. A.J. is carted off to the hospital, and Elysia is headed for the hoosegow. When she is released on bail, she holds an impromptu press conference and announces that she will prove her innocence and find the real killer. She fancies herself an amateur sleuth, having played one on TV in the popular British detective show, 221B Baker Street, and she helped solve a previous murder, but Jake wants her and A.J. to butt out and let the police handle things. Do they obey? Of course not.

A.J. has a herniated disc, and is told to remain on bed rest for several days. Mom spills the beans about Dicky, an Egyptian lothario she'd met on a recent cruise. Even though he did tell her he'd release some naughty and embarrassing photos is she didn't pay her, he claimed to love her and wanted to marry her. A.J. knows her mother didn't kill her former lover, and Jake doesn't want to believe it either. Talk about awkward, having to arrest your girlfriend's mother is not the way to impress her.

Neither is having an old flame show up unexpectedly. A.J. is NOT having a good week. As if clearing her mother's name isn't enough, A.J. worries about how the yoga studio, bequeathed to her by her Aunt Diantha, will get along without her for a week or two. Her co-manager Lily assures her she will not be missed. Lily and A.J. get along like cats and dogs, but the co-management arrangement was stipulated by Diantha in her will, for reasons she took to her grave. Lily has become more and more difficult to work with, and when she tries to get A.J. to sell the studio to their main rival, things get very nasty.

This is a light-hearted, thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. The previous titles in the Mantra for Murder mysteries are CORPSE POSE and DIAL OM FOR MURDER. (If you would like to read a review of DIAL OM FOR MURDER, please click here.

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