Auntie M enjoyed Judith Flanders first mystery, A Murder of Magpies, and was happy to receive the ARC of her second, A Bed of Scorpions, featuring the smart and savvy London editor, Sam Clair. There’s a nice balance of humor in the series, with Sam’s first person point of view providing a running commentary on the people she runs across, too.
Fast forward to the summer after the happenings in “Magpie” and Sam is happy in her routine: work, the occasional drink or lunch out, and many evenings spent with her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, who now has a key to Sam’s flat.
Summer also means Sam is busy setting up her schedule for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and one can’t help but wonder if the next installment will take us there . . . but in the meantime, Sam has enough on her plate with the personalities at work. And a long-planned lunch with an old friend, Aidan Merriam, an art dealer, who is an old ex of Sam’s.
But lunch takes a sour note when Aiden tells her that he had the great misfortune to be the one to find his business partner dead of a gunshot wound. Is this an apparent suicide by Frank or his murder? Aiden needs Sam’s help, both to clear himself and to find out if anyone else would want Frank dead. And guess who is the one of the detective’s on the case from Scotland Yard? And who was on the from the night before–a night he spent with Sam, when he neglected to tell her about the death of her friend’s business partner: None other than that same detective, Jake Field.
What’s a girl to do? Sam calls the person she nows who knows the law, and is straight up and business-like to a fault without turning a hair: her mother, Helena, who rushed in to defend Aiden and sort this case out.
Now Sam finds herself stuck between her mother, Aiden, and Jake, and soon after realizes she’s put herself right in the sights of a murderer who assumes she knows more than she really does.
A few of the characters from the first installment return with welcome scenes. There are her upstairs neighbors, including the delightful Mr. Rudiger. There is talk of where Jake and Sam are headed in their relationship, which is clearly not well defined. And then there’s also the pretty big matter of a killer to be caught.
The mixed worlds of books and art are sharply and cleverly defined with Flanders’ trademark humor spiking the pages as the action speeds along. The author’s work as an editor stands her well here, especially her work for the publications department of the National Portrait Gallery in London. That knowledge infuses these books with the kind of inside look readers love, a way to see inside a different world. Wrap that up with a darn good mystery, a hint of romance, and a believable protagonist you wish was your friend, and you’ll surely enjoy A Bed of Scorpions as much as Auntie M did.