Monday, October 22, 2012

HEIR TODAY                                  
By J.J. & Bette Golden Lamb
Five Star Mystery, August, 2005
279 pgs.,
ISBN: 1-59414-356-0

Paige Alper, free-lance writer and her husband, Max, receive a letter from a tracer firm in New York.  For a hefty fee, the letter says, the heir tracers will locate a dead relative’s assets and hand over some money.  The dead relative is, of course, a black sheep, the most fascinating member of her family and a world-wandering sailor whom she doesn’t see much of.  Nor does her sister who turns out to be a ten-carat bitch and even more interesting, even though she has only a minor role in the story.

Paige’s sister Sheryl, is a grasping, quick-buck hausfrau who wants to immediately sign away her rights and get whatever small amount of cash is available.  Paige, more astute, more suspicious and less in need of quick cash, declines to sign.  She and her husband, crusading free-lance journalist Max, set out to find Uncle Jock’s money.  Family conflict and some fine spats between sisters is one result.

What Max and Paige don’t realize is that an evil Chinese organization with world-wide interests and tentacles has also been stalking Uncle Jock.  That’s because Jock, incautious sailor that he was, had for years been collecting damaging evidence against the Hong Kong based crime syndicate.  Jock was on a personal vendetta. 

If this all sounds a little like that old comic strip “Terry and the Pirates,” it’s not surprising.  Nevertheless, Paige and Max are fun characters to follow, and even if their dialogue is sometimes right out of the forties, it’s clear they have a solid relationship and are very supportive of each other.  Couple conflict is not really in their makeup.

That’s a good thing because their search takes them from the Far East up and down the California Coast, and to New York, among other places.  They are attacked in any number of ingenious ways and it’s a wonder they make it through even a single day with the power of the huge, malevolent, Asian gang arrayed against them.  They do survive to fight another day and it really is a lot of fun following this breathless pair on foot, on motorbike and by car, train and plane to a final solution.  The book sports an intriguing cover and an awkward title. I confess to not generally liking punning titles, which detracts not at all from this charming novel.

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