Judith Flanders’ series featuring editor Samantha Clair is one Auntie M looks forward to reading, with good reason. The series has grown stronger, and with this third outing, A Cast of Vultures, demonstrates everything that’s good about Sam, mixing the smart and witty amateur sleuth-by-default with her Scotland Yard partner, Jake. There’s something to be said for a strong heroine who doesn’t really need anyone, but who chooses to be human enough to let people into her world.
An elderly friend traps Sam into helping her check on a missing neighbor while a series of minor arson fires range in the area. Then one fire turns deadly, with a body whose identity changes everything, and Sam unwittingly finds herself in the midst of being chased by thugs, forced to take drastic measures to defend herself.
The highlights of this series are many: Sam’s self-deprecating humor gives readers a clear-eyed, wry view of herself and those around her. Her mother and the neighbors who pepper the stories range from eccentric to phobic, but all are realistically drawn multi-faceted people. Auntie M is especially fond of Sam’s reclusive, brilliant, and understated upstair neighbor, Mr. Rudiger. We all wish we had a neighbor like Mr. Rudiger at times.
Then there’s the mystery itself, with a many-pronged approach that makes it complex and satisfying, overlapping at times with Jake’s work. And don’t forget Sam’s work world, which in this story provides a nice subplot as her publishing house undergoes what might be a restructuring.
From her Goth assistant, Miranda, who keeps an eye on Sam, to navigating the nature of her relationship with Jake, Sam Clair is someone you will want to spend time with as she finds herself embroiled in what turns out to be a humorous yet fast-paced mystery. Highly recommended.