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by Lorie Ham

USA, Paperback; 222 pages
AmErica House (2001)
ISBN: 1588513807

Reviewed by Pamela White

Alex Walters, a gospel singer based near Fresno, is required once again to free a murder suspect. This time, though, in THE TROUBLE WITH TENORS, the prime suspect is Alex herself. As she admits, she's always had a soft spot for tenors.

Alex's former husband shows up in town with a new bride. His demand? Hand over Jess, the daughter he abandoned three years earlier when he split. After he is killed by a single gun shot, echoes of her bravado - "I'll kill you before I let you have Jess" - endanger Alex's freedom.

Once again, Lorie Ham sets up a capable mystery using her alter ego, golden-tressed, green-eyed alto soprano Alexandra Walters as the amateur sleuth. This is Ham's second in a series and shows a growing talent at fleshing out her characters. Tension builds over the blow up with Mike Evans, Walter's ex. Comfort flows during tete-a-tetes with Agatha Hilman as she knits gloves. Confusion of the heart reigns when a new detective enters the picture, stirring up feelings she doesn't want to have. The damp chill is palpable as the Joaquin Valley's tule fog settles thickly over the scene covering up misdeeds.

Her skill at placing clues and misdirecting with red herrings is pleasantly mysterious. The suspects mount; it turns out no one admired Mike Evans much. As Alex works against time to remove herself from the long list of potential murderers, so does some unknown person work to plant false clues pointing to Alex as the murderer.

Ham gives the reader a fun insight into a behind the scenes look at a gospel convention, mixed morals even within a group of religious entertainers and some glimpses into the life of one working mother.

The book disappoints in places where research is not complete. Small things, like a golf tournament, are unrealistically described. The mother-daughter relationship is still undeveloped for the reader. And the behavior of rats in a barn fire - they stop to eat while the barn is blazing - is distracting. The ending comes too facilely with the conclusion that the murderer is insane, although the reader is given a satisfactory explanation for the behavior.

All in all the flaws are minor and worth overlooking. Ham has a love for her characters and her world. I look forward to the next in the series.

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