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A BED OF SCORPIONS by Judith Flanders: Book Review

A Bed of Scorpions brings us back for a second visit with the delightful Samantha Clair.  Happy in her career as an editor at a London publishing house, she’s on her way to meet her long-time friend and former lover, Aidan Merriam, for lunch.  Entering their favorite Lebanese restaurant and arriving at their regular table, she’s surprised to find Aidan already seated.  With his very tight schedule, he’s never late but always arrives exactly on time.

Sam immediately thinks that something must be wrong, and when Aidan covers his face with his hands she’s sure of it.  But still she’s not prepared for the awful news–his friend and partner in their art gallery, Frank Compton, was found a day earlier at his desk, an apparent suicide.  And the detective investigating the death is Sam’s significant other, Jake Field.

A note on Frank’s computer saying “I’m sorry” neither adds nor subtracts from the idea of suicide.  But Frank hadn’t been ill, had had the same romantic partner for decades, and a forensic search of the gallery’s assets doesn’t turn up anything suspicious.  Although no one is completely satisfied that Frank killed himself, there’s nothing to prove that someone else killed him.  And there the matter rests.

The gallery is involved in an upcoming Edward Stevenson show to tie in with a major exhibit at the Tate.  Stevenson was an eccentric English artist who vanished more than twenty years earlier, leaving a note for his wife saying he was going to an ashram in India.  Apparently he had been interested in Eastern religions, so his wife didn’t think his leaving was too strange.  But when he never wrote again, and an investigation in India found no trace that he had ever been there, it became an unsolved mystery.  That is, until this year, when his skeleton was discovered in a house in Vermont that was being renovated.

Now that there’s major interest in Stevenson’s work, there’s also a conflict between the gallery and Stevenson’s heirs, his widow and their daughter.  It turns out that Sam met the daughter of the late artist a few days earlier, without realizing at the time who she was.  Celia Stevenson Stein is much more involved with the late artist’s estate than her mother has been, and it looks as if there may be financial ramifications for Aidan’s gallery.

As I wrote in my review of A Murder of Magpies, I really, really like Sam Clair and the people around her.  Sam is smart, funny, unsure around people she doesn’t know, and can be a bit sarcastic, all totally believable characteristics in a book editor, I imagine.  Her solicitor mother, Helena, is equally smart, perfectly dressed, and comfortable in any situation.  Well, at least they have one thing in common.  And there’s Jake, Sam’s lover; Sam’s goth and very efficient editorial assistant Miranda; and the mysterious Mr. Rudiger, an elderly architect who seems to have had an unusual life before he rented the flat upstairs from Sam.

A Bed of Scorpions is just as enjoyable as A Murder of Magpies, and that’s high praise.

You can read more about Judith Flanders at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


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