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Deadly Disguise (Estela Nogales Mystery) (Volume 4) Paperback – February 7, 2017
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From Arroyo Loco to Universidad Loca When Estela teams up with Detective Muñoz to investigate the suspicious death of Professor Freuhauf, she discovers that the university where she works is nearly as crazy as the community that she lives in. Seemingly, everyone wanted to get rid of the victim, and all for good reasons. It was fun to follow the twists and turns in another entertaining story in this charming series. -Pamela Beason, best-selling author of The Only Witness
About the Author
Cherie O’Boyle is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. She now lives in Northern California. When not writing, she is playing with her border collies and taking them to exotic locations in California such as Gridley for flyball tournaments, Galt for sheepherding trials, and Lake Tahoe for dog summer camp. Cherie is currently hard at work on the fifth in the Estela Nogales mystery series.
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As is the case with all of O’Boyle’s mysteries, Estela is the voice of reason trying to subdue all the craziness around her. Not only does she have search for clues and interview reluctant witnesses, but her home community of Arroyo Loco, on the central California coast, is in an uproar over county mandated street improvements. There is plenty of fun with the bizarre inhabitants of the aptly named town.
This fourth installment in the series is a treat for dog lovers, as well, as Estela’s border collies, Scout and Shiner, show off their skills as herders, therapy dogs, and general good companions. Intelligently written, with well-drawn characters, lots of humor, and a plot that will keep you guessing, Deadly Disguise is a great read for fans of cozy mysteries!
If there was any place where it bogged down a bit, it would be in the extremely detailed sections of Estela’s housing association. Although one of the characters had a relationship to the mystery, most of them did not. I kept reading in expectation that these sections would tie into the solution, but they didn’t. Or maybe I just find my own housing association irritating and I’m projecting…or that’s what our psychologist Estela would say!
The mystery was complex whether we were wondering if the death was a suicide or not, or how many characters had potential motives. There were many red herrings and (as in all good mysteries) it was hard to figure out who the killer was before the big reveal at the end. An enjoyable addition to the series!
Estela seems like a good friend. I really
enjoy being part of her adventures. The story comes alive through her vision & wit.
Looking forward to book 5 but no pressure. Thank you for the delightful entertainment even though your books usually off someone!😊
For me, however, there were a host of irritations that brought me out of the story. (Warning: mild spoilers.) The first is the story itself. Rather to my amazement. the protagonist sleuth did not crack the case. It was cracked for her by an eyewitness witness panicking by happy chance just when the plot was stalled. After, the case solved itself in short order. Second, some things were left unexplained. Someone set fire to Estela's car, for example, but we never learn who or why. The murderer or the son of the murderer was spying in Estela's neighborhood, but we never learn why. Third, there are side trips that did not serve the story, such as a visit to the beach where some tar adhered to a shoe, then got transferred to clothing and Estela's dogs. Fourth, I found some character inconsistencies. It is established that Estela Nogales is queasily averse to violence, yet she enjoys murder mysteries. Estela shows a lack of curiosity several times, for example ignoring shotgun fire and screams, yet doggedly investigates more trivial things. Estela seeks the companionship and approval of the detective, Muñoz, but also claims to dislike him. Fifth, some writer's craft items brought me out of the story again and again: distracting asides, the habit of "telling" instead of "showing," many redundant adverbs (e.g., "Muñoz nodded silently"), and copy editing issues. (Not one ellipsis was typeset correctly, there were spelling errors, there were punctuation errors, italic text was also typeset in bold. I read a Kindle edition; possibly other formats do not suffer the last problem.) Sixth, I did not detect much Hispanic flavor besides the name "Arroyo Loco" until the wedding subplot began about 40% of the way in. I wanted more. Seventh, some characterizations of academia were right on target, but others made me wonder if the book was set in a parallel universe. For example, the opening panic over a possible active shooter on campus led to a description of the life of a professor as "working conditions that are nothing short of petrifying" because disgruntled students might open fire at any moment.
For me, the characters came off as inadequately described. At about the 90% mark, I learned that one fellow was black, though he had appeared several times earlier. Muñoz's shirts and ties were described in great detail, but never Muñoz's physical or personality quirks. Without concrete image handles, characters faded to a list of names.
Ah, but my rating is "mostly harmless," and for all my complaints I did end up enjoying Deadly Disguise. There is humor and occasional sparks of compassion along with a jolt of wry cynicism. While I have to agree with the protagonist's summary that, "at three minutes to nine, Freuhauf magically flies over the railing to his death,” there is just enough plot and just enough character development in Deady Disguise to tip me toward the positive.