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Baroque and Desperate
"A Den of Antiquity Mystery"
By Tamar Myers

Avon Books, 1999

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Antique shop owner Abigail Timberlake meets a handsome stranger on the plane coming back from a Caribbean cruise who charms her, then leaves her with the drinks tab, and slips away while she is sleeping. She is met at the Charlotte, N.C. airport by her mother with double bad news that her shop, the Den of Antiquity, has been cleaned out by thieves, and that her daughter forgot to mail in the insurance check. The good news is that the image of an angel has appeared on the back wall of the empty shop.

While Abby is standing in the ruins of her dreams with Mom and her ex-beau, Detective Greg Washburn , the handsome stranger re-appears and invites her to take a weekend trip to a South Carolina plantation. It turns out that this blond god, Tradd Burton, is the grandson of the wealthy and antique-laden Mrs. Elias Burton Latham.

Granny likes to play games, and this one involves searching for a missing heirloom piece worth over $100,000. The winning team gets to keep the item. Abby decides she might as well get out of town. Her co-"antiquer" and more-or-less friend C.J. gets invited along to be a team partner with Tradd’s younger brother Rupert.

C.J., the nickname, inexplicably, for Jane Cox, is, as Abby and others mention in a variety of ways, a few bricks short of a load, but she has a good heart. When Flora, the matriarch’s floozie maid who seems to have slept with every man in the states of North and South Carolina, including several of the Burton-Latham family and Abby’s ex-husband, lawyer Buford Timberlake, is murdered, C.J. confesses.

Despite the fact that her fingerprints are on the apparent murder weapon, a priceless ceremonial knife, Abby does not believe her friend comitted the crime. Neither does Sheriff Thompson, but C.J. confesses and is taken to the county jail. Abby enlists the help of a pair of local barristers, the Triplett brothers, who are actually identical twins who cannot tell a lie.

There are lots of colorful and eccentric characters. Abby’s knowledge of antiques helps her escape a deadly situation. While she is away, Mama has turned the shop into a shrine, complete with paying customers and coverage on CNN, but Abby has no time for that as she tries to save her friend and win the contest.

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