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A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE by Christi Daugherty: Book Review

Harper McClain lives for violence.  It’s not that she’s cruel or uncaring, it’s that she’s the journalist on the Savannah Daily News’ crime beat.  So a day without a hit-and-run, a major robbery, or a murder leaves Harper nothing about which to write.

Still, she’s overcome when she arrives at River Street, the most photographed place in the city, in response to a phone call from the cameraman with whom she works.  The victim, who has been shot to death, is someone she knows; it’s Naomi Scott, a law student by day and a bartender at Harper’s favorite pub, The Library Bar, at night.  Naomi was beautiful but reserved, a quiet young woman who would not seem to be the type of person to be gunned down in the middle of the night.

Bonnie Larson, who was with Harper when she got the call at The Library and goes with her to River Street, tells the police that Naomi had a boyfriend, Wilson Shepherd, a fellow student at the law school.  Wilson is a likeable young man, very devoted to her, Bonnie insists, but she admits that the two were “taking a break” in their relationship.  That, given the young man’s juvenile record, makes him suspect number one.

Hours later, the Savannah police have Wilson surrounded on a city street.  He’s protesting his innocence, but he has a gun pointed at the officers.  The more they yell at him to surrender, the more agitated he becomes, until members of the department’s SWAT team leap onto his back, throw him into the gutter, and handcuff him.

The police are confident that they have the killer, but Jarrod Scott, Naomi’s father, doesn’t believe it.  Jarrod contacts Harper at work and tells her that he knows Naomi was frightened of another man, although he doesn’t know exactly why.  The name he gives Harper is another of Naomi’s classmates, Peyton Anderson, son of the county’s former district attorney and a member of one of the city’s most prestigious families.

Harper has never met Peyton, but everyone in Savannah knows his family.  They meet at the memorial service for Naomi, and he admits to Harper that they were more than friends before she met Wilson but denies he knows anything about her murder.

On the strictly personal side, Harper is struggling with her sense that an intruder has been in her home more than once.  The clues are slight–a glass where she is certain she hadn’t put it when she left that morning, a faint smell of smoke–but they are making her apprehensive.  Why would anyone enter her place?  Is it done to intimidate her, or is the whole thing just her over-active imagination?

A Beautiful Corpse is a powerful follow-up to Christi Daugherty’s first Harper McClain novel, The Echo Killings.  Harper is a terrific protagonist, smart and independent but with a vulnerability that dates back to her childhood when she returned home from school and found her mother murdered.  That crime was never solved, and it is never far from Harper’s mind.

You can read more about Christi Daugherty at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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