REVIEW

THE NEXT EX: A MADELINE CARTER NOVEL BY LINDA L. RICHARDS

A Review By M. Wayne Cunningham


Money, men and murder rule 35-year-old Madeline Carter's life in movieland and to truly appreciate her entanglements here's what you need to know. Madeline is the brainchild of British Columbia Gulf Islands resident and editor of JanuaryMagazine.com, Linda L. Richards. Richards has already led Madeline through some exciting amateur sleuthing in Mad Money, a debut effort nominated in 2005 for the prestigious Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis First Novel. Now in The Next Ex Madeline is again making money, sometimes lots of it, sometimes not, as a home-based day trading stock broker in Malibu. She's doing well enough that her landlord, movie director, Tyler Beckett, has asked her to tutor movie producer Maxie Livingstone's wife Keesia in the fine arts and crafts of day trading in return for the all-powerful but obnoxious Maxie funding a major movie for Tyler.

The 28-year-old, stunningly beautiful Keesia and the tall blonde Madeline quickly become friends but after Mad accepts a mysteriously runic inscribed stone as a gift from Keesia and learns about Maxie's string of four ex wives, their friendship abruptly ends. Keesia is fatally stabbed and dies in Mad's arms at a house party at the Livingstones' home, known as Larkin House in memory of its first resident, Lolita Larkin, a one time Hollywood star. Keesia is hardly in her grave before Maxie wants to get into her tightly encrypted computer leading Mad, who finds Maxie "about as attractive as a jelly doughnut," to get a real hate on for him. And her loathing and suspicions worsen when Maxie's former wives start getting knocked off, one shoved off a bridge, another shot and the body left in a horse stall, and a third narrowly escapes an attempted drowning. Mad, of course, gets involved in the scene from the get-go because she was the first to find Keesia's body and knows something about the encrypted computer even though she is not telling all she knows about it to either the police or to Maxie and his henchmen. And she finds out plenty by cracking the computer security program and tracking down other clues and assorted suspects along the way. In fact, there is enough evidence from the computer, from Keesia's gift of the stone, and from Madeline's nosing into the past lives of Maxie's ex wives and even of Lolita Larkin for several spine tingling attempts to be made to silence her before she finally gets the police to believe her and arrest the right person for the right crime.

Although the lead detective on the case sees Madeline as "Miss Marple" she is more like Jordan Kavanagh of Crossing Jordan in stubbornly dashing about, following up on clues and rooting out suspicious characters. She's got a feminine side though too in going on extended shopping sprees with a best pal, Emily, and in displaying her emotions for a boyfriend Gus, or her anger at a deadbeat date who leaves her sitting at a restaurant even though he's paid the bill. Tyler's dog, Tycho, views her as his best friend and she loves him too. And throughout the novel she exhibits her skills as a very knowledgeable day trader of stocks and bonds, leaving behind a trail of buys, sells, feeds, portfolios and references to the NYSE, SEC, and EDGAR as she listens to "the poetry of numbers, the music of a market."

Knowing Madeline's bad luck with men but her good luck in making money, solving murders in movie land and entertaining us so well while she does so, lets hope we'll be lucky enough to read about her again soon.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

M. Wayne Cunningham writes his reviews in Kamloops BC. Formerly an English instructor and a senior manager in post-secondary education in three provinces he also served as the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. A member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association, his reviews have appeared in various publications including a weekly column he wrote for two years for the Kamloops Daily News. He can be reached at mw_cunningham@telus.net.


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