Author: Elena Hartwell

Publisher: Camel Press

ISBN: 978-1-60381-727-1

Weekending with one’s Mom at a fancy spa resort might not seem to be the epitome of fun for most young people, but when private investigator Eddie Shoes has the opportunity to get a freebie couple of days away in the beautiful Cascade Mountains, she grabs at the chance. Deciding to take a short hike on their first day onsite, Eddie takes all precautions possible to ensure that her solo walk will be a safe and pleasant one. Little does she realize that she will soon be listening to the last words of a dying man, who petitions her, in exchange for an extremely valuable silver crucifix, to find his missing daughter, before she has to flee for her life from a raging sea of fire.

Third in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series (with the other two novels in the series being One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads are Deader Than One), but thoroughly readable on its own, Three Strikes, You’re Dead is a smooth and sophisticated mystery that is intriguing in its characterization and storyline, while still retaining an old world charm that should make it highly readable across the generations. Exciting in those parts where it needs to be (such as during the forest blaze), it yet manages to offer a true ‘at-home’ feel.

The parent–daughter relationship is especially well described, and one feels at ease with all three protagonists who are at the core of the text, being high-maintenance mother, Chava, mob-connected father (strange as this might seem), Eduardo, and the heroine herself. The international flavor of Hartwell’s characters is not at all surprising, considering her own history, with both of her parents having worked in the Peace Corps, and her first word having been the Spanish “cuidado,” meaning “Watch out!” Small wonder that the dying man whom she tries to rescue from the flames utters this as one of his last words. It could almost be Hartwell’s motto for life, as well as for this exciting, yet strangely untroubling, series.

For dog-lovers, there are also loads of details about mutts in store, which reflect the warmth of both the novel’s characters, and the author herself, who has a dog of her own, called Polar. The main reason for her “one-hundred-seventy-five pound, Tibetan mastiff-Irish wolfhound cross” not being with Eddie on her initial hike at the resort is because he’s gone for a beauty makeover at “doggy daycare” – seeing her Mom is reputed to have “the instincts of a bloodhound,” there’s no reason for there to be more of them on a case…

Expect nothing overly gory from this mystery, but do anticipate a soundly written, essentially ethical, read that should encourage you to read even more of Hartwell’s books in future. Safe enough to be read by your maiden aunt, but stimulating enough to keep your kid sister reading by flashlight under the covers well after lights out, Three Strikes, You’re Dead is a gripping, but not disturbing, read that should garner Elena Hartwell an even greater following than before.