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The Belen Hitch by Pari Noskin Taichert
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The town of Belen, New Mexico, has hired PR consultant Sasha Solomon to help them decide how to turn a former Harvey House restaurant into a major tourist attraction. One faction wants a train museum/bed and breakfast; another sees the building as an art museum featuring the work of a controversial local artist, Phillipa Petty. But when Sasha shows up to interview the artist, she finds the older woman dead – murdered as it turns out. The poisonous gas that killed Miss Petty also sickens Sasha and, if for no other reason, Sasha wants to know who committed the crime.

The victim was also a long-time friend of Sasha’s mother Hannah, who’s in a rehabilitation hospital following a series of strokes. In one of her more coherent moments, Hannah asks her daughter to find out who killed her friend. None of this makes Detective Garcia of the New Mexico State Police happy. He’s wants Sasha to stay out of crime detection, certain she’s withholding evidence or, at the very least, not telling him all she knows. He’s right on both counts.

While she conducts the interviews for the Belen project, she also uncovers some startling news about her mother’s relationship with the dead woman, finds herself attracted to a hunky doctor/pharmacist ten years her junior, and learns about a ghost who inhabits the old Harvey House.

A review on the book’s jacket compares The Belen Hitch to “a family saga inside an amateur sleuth tale.” I would, instead, say it’s like an amateur sleuth tale within a family saga, with the investigation taking the back seat to the larger story. But a good story is a good story … and I don’t care how it’s categorized. The Belen Hitch will appeal to mystery and non-mystery readers alike.

I believe readers will fall for Sasha, a 40-year-old professional woman whose idea of good nutrition is a bagel topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips … well, actually, anything accompanied by whipped cream. Her conflicted relationship with her seriously ill mother will ring true to readers who’ve been in a similar situation. All that adds up to a heroine I want to read more about. Plus the writing is top-notch, with a nice balance of seriousness and fun.

By Diana, first published in the Cozy Library (March 9, 2006)

Review based on publisher- or author-provided review copy.
  NewsieQ | Jan 21, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0826339166, Paperback)

Public relations consultant Sasha Solomon travels to Belen, New Mexico, to help the small town increase tourism using a former Harvey House as the main attraction. Two factions think they've got the key to Belen's economic success. The train enthusiasts hope to transform the building into a bed and breakfast complete with a restored Fred Harvey restaurant. The equally vocal artists want to create a world-class gallery with the "blasphemous" art of Phillipa Petty--an internationally known painter and local denizen--at its center.

When Solomon finds Petty's murdered body in the artist's studio, the consultant's life becomes much more difficult than mere press releases and returns-on-investment.

"With its sly humor, offbeat characters, and endearing sleuth, The Belen Hitch takes us on a vivid journey through New Mexico's culture, food, art, and landscape in search of a killer. As PR expert Sasha Solomon investigates the murder of a controversial artist--think sacrilegious Georgia O'Keeffe--she must also deal with the aftermath of her mother's stroke, a new beau, a cranky detective, forty-year-old secrets, and ghosts that won't stay dead. Taichert infuses her new mystery with such humanity and warmth that you'll come away glowing."--Denise Hamilton, author of Edgar, Willa, and Creasey Memorial Dagger nominated Eve Diamond novel

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:51 -0400)

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