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By Taffy Cannon

Perseverance Press, March 2000, $12.95
Trade Paperback

Reviewed by Joseph F. Obermaier

One of the joys of reading mysteries is when we armchair detectives can do a little armchair traveling. Read a mystery and "see" the world. Whether it is reliving trips to the places we've been, or reading of places to which we wish we could go, there's a certain pleasure when our favorite series detours to an exotic locale. Building a series around a tour group operation seems almost to be cheating.

Taffy Cannon, author of the Nan Robinson mystery novels kicks off a new series of travel-related mysteries with Guns and Roses.

Roxanne Prescott, a disenchanted Texas police officer on personal leave, is now working as a tour guide for her aunt's Irish Eyes Travel Agency. Her first assignment is leading a history and garden tour of Virginia, nicknamed by Roxanne the "Guns and Roses" tour. (Though described on the cover as "A Modern Mystery Set in Colonial Williamsburg," the restored city hosts the climax in a travelogue that includes Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Richmond as well.)

What she believed would be an easy job catering to the whims of affluent travelers quickly turns sour. Strange things happen on the tour almost from the beginning. Harmless pranks turn malicious, and grow in severity as the tour winds it way across the state to Colonial Williamsburg. Roxanne must rely on her police training to tackle the mystery and try to stop the pranks before they turn deadly, as they inevitably must.

A tour group is an appealing setting for mystery. It lends a touch of an old English manor house mystery in that we keep wondering which of the guests is responsible, and who among them may be the next target. Taffy Cannon populates her tour group with a diverse collection of personalities, all credibly drawn and gracefully introduced. She is particularly adept at bringing her child characters into sharp focus, rendering them both authentic and sincere. Comfortably on the cozy side, Guns and Roses uses the evocative setting of Colonial Williamsburg to wonderful effect. I wonder why there haven't been more mysteries set in this locale.

As a heroine, Roxanne is appealing enough. She comes complete with a past tinged with tragedy and a wily sense of humor. She reminded me a great deal of Sheriff Brady, the hero of a series by J. A. Jance. Taffy Cannon leaves enough of Roxanne's life unexplored to provide fertile ground for a sequel or two; however, I can't help feeling she might have been more dynamically drawn in a book of slightly longer length.

Guns and Roses is a smooth read, with easy-going language, and a sly wit with a Southern touch. It is a quick read (only 240 pages) that would serve well as a thoroughly enjoyable Summer diversion.

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