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The Devil's in the Details by Mary Jane…
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The Devil's in the Details (2004)

by Mary Jane Maffini

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One Labour Day weekend Camilla McPhee, lawyer and victim’s rights activist in Ottawa, receives bizarre news. A woman she barely knew, Laura Brown, has died and named Camilla as her next of kin and sole heir. Camilla sets about trying to find a real family or next of kin but soon realises Laura didn’t have a single family member, friend or colleague. Added to that is Camilla’s growing worry that Laura did not die in an accident as the police presume. Investigating becomes more difficult for Camilla when police start to believe she is responsible for Laura’s death.

I generally do more research into the books I’m going to read than I did in this case but I am in need of Canadian books and this one was available at the library so I figured I’d give it a go. Happily it proved to be just what I was looking for today: a well-written, funny romp of a tale.

As the central character of the book Camilla is quite delightful: interesting enough to want to read more about but not so over-the-top quirky that you want to scream. I’ve read a load of books in this genre which do not get that balance right so I appreciate it all the more when it is done well. Her personal circumstances are largely believable and her vaguely self-deprecating, slightly cynical narration of events spiraling out of control achieved just the right note. As is the way of things in cosy mysteries Camilla had a posse of fun friends and relations, my favourite of whom was an octogenarian ballooning enthusiast neighbour who kept up a nice line in stiff upper lip support. I want to be exactly like that when I’m 80-odd. I also found I could empathise with Camilla taking perverse pleasure in doing exactly the opposite of what her perfect, control-freak siblings told her to do.

Naturally enough the story is a little far-fetched but it doesn’t stretch credibility too far and it maintains its own internal logic very well. The way in which Camilla collects information about her acquaintance is believable and the second part of the book, in which Camilla is on the run from authorities, has more credibility than a lot of thrillers I’ve read. There are a satisfying number of red herrings and false leads which makes the book a very decent whodunnit for those who like to puzzle-solve as they read.

I had a smile on my face for most of the time while reading The Devil’s in the Details and laughed out loud more than once. This is not as common an occurrence as I’d like it to be so the book gets extra points for incorporating pithy humour instead of ‘cheesyness’. I’m not sure there’s anything about it that’s particularly Canadian (multiple references to Tim Hortons aside) but being light, fast and funny puts it in the above average category for me (rating = 3.5 stars). ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Labour Day weekend in the nation's capital (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada): the last weekend of summer, a chance to unwind, perhaps attending the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Lawyer Camilla MacPhee is trying to avoid being roped into taking a balloon ride with her friends as well as summonses to the family cottage north of the city -- relaxation is the name of the game for her. That is, until she is informed that she has been named the next of kin for an old university friend -- actually, more like an acquaintance. What would prompt Laura to give Camilla that status? And why does her death seem so suspicious? Camilla vows to find out.

The story is told at a breakneck pace, starting on Friday afternoon and ending on Labour Day Monday. Camilla gets into scrapes that go from bad to worse, and even though they may strain the limits of credulity in places, they certainly make thrilling reading for the long weekend. And with the Camilla MacPhee series, I find that the local colour is used just enough to make me go "Yay! I know where that is!" but not so much as to be annoying; I've had bad luck with a couple of other Ottawa-set books where the setting didn't sit right with me.

This book can probably be read on its own, although it does make a couple of fleeting references to a previous installment in the series (Little Boy Blues). Recommended if you like to see Ottawa in your mysteries or perhaps want a fictional taste of the city. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 189491712X, Paperback)

It's Labour Day, Camilla's favourite weekend of the year. She's planning to relax and ponder what's happening in her relationship with policman Sgt. Ray Deveau. She's emphatically not planning to get involved in anything that means trouble. No wonder the news that an old acquaintance has had an accident comes as a surprise. There must be some mistake. By the time Camilla unearths Laura's connection to a violent revolutionary group active two decades earlier, she's had several blows to the head and discovered that people shes been talking to keep ending up dead. Someone will do anything to keep Laura's connections secret. Getting arrested is the least of Camilla's problems.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:46 -0400)

It's Labour Day, Camilla's favourite weekend of the year. She's planning to relax and ponder what's happening in her relationship with policman Sgt. Ray Deveau. She's emphatically not planning to get involved in anything that means trouble. No wonder the news that an old acquaintance has had an accident comes as a surprise. There must be some mistake. By the time Camilla unearths Laura's connection to a violent revolutionary group active two decades earlier, she's had several blows to the head and discovered that people shes been talking to keep ending up dead. Someone will do anything to keep Laura's connections secret. Getting arrested is the least of Camilla's problems.… (more)

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