Five O Clock Shadow
Poisoned Pen, Feb 2004, 24.95, 272 pp.
She is married five days and is honeymooning in Albuquerque so her husband can ride in a hot air balloon. While he is in the air, Pauly Caton is distracted taking photographs so it takes her a moment to comprehend that the noise she hears is the balloon losing air and dropping quickly. When she reaches the crash site, she sees the pilot and her spouse are dead.
Things turn surreal when a naked boy dressed only in her husband's jacket leaves the basket. She has no idea who he is or when he entered the balloon. Pauly learns at the hospital that her husband who said he wanted children had a vasectomy. As his heir, she inherits his share in a company and intends to take over the study of the feasibility of selling New Mexico's water rights. As she looks through his files, Pauly finds a sealed envelope that contains pictures of naked children with a New Mexico Congressman. She investigates the circumstances surrounding her husband's death because she needs to know what kind of monster of a man she married, a decision that almost costs her life, not once but twice.
This crime thriller is very different from the Pecos mysteries that Susan Slater is renowned for. FIVE O CLOCK SHADOW is much darker in tone, a gritty urban noir in the tradition of Dennis Lehare. The protagonist elicits sympathy from the readers almost immediately because she is a new widow who keeps finding ugly revelations about the man she married. Susan Slater has written an exciting amateur sleuth tale that is fast paced and action packed, but clearly Pauly driven.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner