If I were fifty again I would like to be Lilly Bennett, Marshal of
Bennet's Fort, Wyoming -- rich, independent, sophisticated, beautiful,
passionate -- and with a great sense of humor. She lives on a 200,000
acre ranch in Wyoming -- where a mere 100 acre spread is called a yard.
Her family has owned the ranch for five generations, and she uses the
family helicopter to fly back and forth to Roundup. She is equally at
home on horseback or at the Opera in an Armani suit with her husband
who is the Director . One reviewer says Marshal Bennett is Auntie Mame
with a license to carry. Lily is the delightful brainchild of Marne
Davis Kellogg, a Denver author, a fifth generation westerner.
Lilly's latest adventure is called "Birthday Party." Land developers
are anathema in her part of Wyoming, and in this book several of those
who deserve it most get knocked off. How can you not like a book which
starts off with a gunman suddenly appearing at a banquet which Lilly is
attending? She "vaulted right over the top of the table...and went
after him. He had a big lead on her "...and I was wearing a tight skirt
and high heels and had large glops of cherry pie glued to my legs and
thighs and ground into my St. Laurent aubergine shantung." He got away
that time in their family helicopter, but Lilly eventually catches him,
of course. In pursuit, she flies to Las Vegas and ends up hobnobbing
with a group of showgirls. Of course, she catches up with the bad guy
eventually -- or bad gal -- which?
Another interesting mystery character is Britt Montero. She is about as
far from Lilly Bennett as you can get, both in miles and personality,
but they share a real urge to catch crooks. Britt is a newspaper
reporter in Miami, created by Edna Buchanan. In "Garden of Evil," Britt
takes on the hunt for a serial killer. But this one is not a man, but a
beautiful woman who shoots men after mutilating them and then steals
their cars. She takes Britt on a wild ride, literally. This one is
pretty gruesome and not recommended for the faint of heart.
I don't mean to be picking on developers, but another of my favorite
mystery friends is tackling them in Alaska in "Hunter's Moon." Dana
Stabenow's Kate Shugak, once the star investigator of the Anchorage D.
A.'s office, has retired to her grandmother's cabin in the remote
wilderness of Alaska. Her beloved grandmother, Ekaterina, a matriarch
of her Aleut clan, is engaged in a fierce battle over some tribal lands
and, although she hates the city, Kate reluctantly leaves the cabin for
Anchorage. Kate is great fun. We get to watch her shop for evening
wear at Nordstrom's (her preferred clothing consists of jeans and
boots), and chase the bad guys with her usual enthusiasm.
I usually write about mysteries written by women, but to prove I'm not
prejudiced, I really like James Doss's stories of Daisy Perike, that
take place on the Ute Reservation in southern Colorado. His writing has
been compared to Tony Hillerman's but aside from the fact that both are
male and Anglo, their styles are quite different. In "The Shaman's
Game," as in all Doss's novels, main character is Ute tribal policeman
Charlie Moon. But Charlie's aunt, Daisy Perike is the one who usually
has the final answer. She is a shaman and she trusts the signs the
spirits have sent to her of a great evil in their midst. The plot
centers around the Ute "Thirsty Dance."
Completely different from any of these is Lisa Scottoline's "Mistaken
Identity." Bennie Rosato, a defense attorney , meets her client for the
first time in Philadelphia's Central Corrections. The prisoner extended
her hand over the counter. "Pleased to meet you. I'm your twin," she
said. But Bennie grew up an only child, so the plot thickens in chapter
one. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you, but this is a page-turner.
From Anchorage to Miami, I've learned a lot of geography recently. And
I just got my hands on Rita Mae Brown's "Outfoxed," which takes place in
the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It's amazing how much ground I
can cover without moving off my couch.