Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley, May 2008, $6.99
Widow Peggy Lee and her son Paul are in Badin attending the funeral of a dearly beloved friend, Mayor Jim Garrison. During the memorial dinner honoring the late mayor, two men wearing rescue uniforms enter and announce a diver inspecting the dam is not responding to their calls. Professor Ruth Sargent, an expert in underwater forensics, volunteers to dive into the dam to see if the men are alive. She asks Peggy to accompany her as her friend is a forensics botanist who works as a contractor for the Charlotte Police Department. Ruth finds the man dead wedged into the intake bulkhead gauge. The victim’s wife arrives insisting this was not an accident because Gerry was a careful experienced diver. Later Peggy learns that Ruth had an affair with the deceased.
Back in Charlotte, Peggy is brought on a case in which Marsha Haltry apparently drowned in her swimming pool. When she sees the same water plant that was on victim who died by the dam, Peggy believes Marsha was murdered. An autopsy reveals phytoplankton in her lungs just like that found in Gerry’s lungs. Both also shared a trace of a deadly toxin just not enough to kill them. The police of both counties believe Ruth is the only viable suspect for a variety of reasons. Peggy believes Ruth could not kill anyone so she investigates even after the police close the case.
Joyce and Jim Lavene provide a fascinating whodunit with unusual but plausible twists and plenty of red herrings (fungus might be more accurate) in their latest Peggy Lee poison case (see PRETTY POISON). PERFECT POISON is a charmer due to the quirky Tarheel support cast who have offbeat senses of humor but are there for the heroine when she needs them. Although at times she would like to throttle her “assistants” like her lover and her son whose attraction to a student adds to the fun. Still it is the forensic botanist and her investigation that makes this a perfect cozy.