Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: Carolyn J. RoseISBN : 978-0-9837359-7-7
It’s always good to spend time with friends, more so if there’s a coffee and a comfy armchair involved. I made substitute teacher, Barbara Reed and her drug cop boyfriend, Dave Martin’s acquaintance in Carolyn J. Rose’s novel, No Substitute For Money, so with a smile on my face and coffee in hand, I settled down to catch-up with Barb in the latest in the series, No Substitute For Maturity.
I wasn’t disappointed. Barb with dog pal, Cheese Puff, has begun dual occupancy of her condo with Dave and his teenage daughter, Allison. She quickly finds out Dave’s ideas on home hygiene include drinking from the orange juice spout (a little spit never hurt anyone) and leaving items of evil smelling clothing wherever they fall. He is though, exceptionally talented in the bedroom department so Barb is willing to overlook these inconveniences until her workplace program of partners-sharing-bearing-the-load kicks in or she kicks butt.
Allison, at 15 years, is everything starting with ‘P’, prissy, pouting and pro-active exclusively in her own interests, she’s described by Carolyn Rose as ‘an unguided missile carrying a megaton payload of teenage angst and drama’. Allison’s girl/fledgling woman characterization is particularly well written – Barb’s tongue biting patience and mix of frustration and anger backed up by Dave’s I’ll-sort-out-the-princess-behaviour is required reading for anyone crazy enough to embark on a blended family relationship with teenagers as part of the cast list.
Barb gets caught up in sister Iz and her partner Penelope’s work at a woman’s accommodation complex which provides housing for women and children at risk of domestic violence. A house within the complex is fire-bombed and the woman occupant, her children unharmed, escapes with burns to the legs. Her husband is charged with arson but later released on bail.
Iz, furious that the husband has been released organizes a sit-in on the steps of the courthouse to protest that by allowing bail the judge has placed the guy’s wife and children in real danger.
Barb, despite her con man ex-husband being hired as the condo complex maintenance guy, coping with moving in trauma and the trials and tribulations of a substitute teacher goes to the sit-in with her neighbor, Mrs. Ballantyne (everyone’s fairy godmother) and Allison who, like all teens, is desperate to get her face on prime time TV.
Dave, weary working for a new boss with a penchant for promotion by any means possible, turns up in time to see Iz do what she always does; turn the sit-in into a personal publicity opportunity. All hell breaks loose with the protestors and cops mixing it on living colour television.
Not too long after there’s a murder and Iz is in trouble deep. Mrs. Ballantyne, wearing her power pearl necklace, with friend Dario, a hit-man with a heart, takes charge and Barb breathes a sigh of relief.
Not for long though, Barb, home alone, decides to multi-task: check up on a neighbor and take the trash to the dumpster. It’s night, a night that puts Barb in fear for her life when out of the darkness she’s confronted by a gun-toting weirdo. In an exciting conclusion to a fun mystery by an engaging witty writer, Barb manages to act with real maturity (when your life is in danger it’s good to have maturity along for the ride) until the cops arrive and end the gun wielding weirdo’s crazy actions.
As with maturity in life, quality in writing isn’t always around as much as you would like – Carolyn J. Rose is a quality writer, her new mystery, No Substitute For Maturity, a good read.