“Designed for Death,” by Jean Harrington. Carina Press. E-book. $4.99.
Naples, Florida is the setting for Jean Harrington’s latest adventure in fiction. After two exciting and carefully researched Irish historical romances set during the renaissance period, “The Barefoot Queen” and “In the Lion’s Mouth,” Ms. Harrington has shifted gears to the here and now. The here is the beachfront condo world of Naples, the fictional but probable Surfside condos where Interior designer Devalera “Deva” Dunne, recently widowed, has settled to restart her life. Little did she know what her new community had in store for her.
The here and now also means e-publishing . Ms. Harrington’s connection with Carina Press puts her inside of the Harlequin empire. Carina is a division of Harlequin devoted to e-publishing on a large scale. Certain Carina Press titles may later be selected for print publication.
Jean Harrington’s new protagonist, Deva, is trying to re-establish her interior design career by helping Surfside’s owner, Dick Parker, turn rental apartments into condos. She is also getting business from the new condo owners who are looking to individualize their homes. One of these clients is a tall, striking woman named Treasure, once a regular at the Foxy Lady Lounge on route 951. Deva and Treasure are getting along fine selecting the ingredients for the classic Hollywood décor Treasure desires. Before long, however, Deva finds Treasure murdered in the condo – a gruesome ending to a brief friendship.
Not satisfied with Lieutenant Victor Rossi’s official investigation, Deva begins her own sleuthing, much to the handsome policeman’s dismay. Emotionally vulnerable after the loss of her husband, Deva is suspicious of the advances of several Surfside residents: (supposed) bachelor Simon Yeager, Neal Tomson, and married man Dick Parker, who is Deva’s main source of income. Could either of the bickering partners Chip and AudreyAnn be guilty of infidelity and murder? And what about Faye LaBelle, drag queen extraordinaire, who was once Treasure’s roommate? Faye no doubt felt betrayed when Treasure, his gay lover once named Tom, underwent a sex change operation to become a woman.
Along the way, Rossi discovers that the blood trail on Treasure’s carpet was a woman’s. But does the blood belong to the murderer?
Notable scenes in the book include Deva’s visit to the Foxy Lady Lounge, where she picks up pieces of information and witnesses a colorful scene that includes drag queen Hedda Lettuce, Faye’s partner in the establishment. Another enticing scene is Treasure’s funeral, more like an Irish wake, in which good memories and high spirits help friends and acquaintances cope with their loss.
As Deva’s investigation advances, she is always butting heads (figuratively, though she wouldn’t mind if it happened literally) with Rossi. There are signs that he may be attracted to her and that his gruff warnings for her to leave the police work to him are motivated by something other than professional policy or pride. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 23, 2012 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly and the February 29 Fort Myers edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Jean Harrington pdf