Million Dollar Mysteries by Mindy Starns Clark

                                        

5 of 5 stars

Approx 330-350 pages, paperback

Harvest House Publishers, 2002 – 2004

I just finished reading this series for the fifth time (or so), but I remember that when I first looked at these books, they didn’t grab my attention. Maybe I was put off by the seemingly-disconnected opening of the first book, A Penny for Your Thoughts. Or maybe the titles struck me as trite. Whatever my objection, I’m glad I got past it and started reading.

Every time I enjoy these books, they teach me a lot as a writer. I confess I read with a bit of envy, for Mindy Starns Clark designed The Million Dollar Mysteries brilliantly.

The series’ heroine is a young widow, Callie Webber, a private investigator. In each book, Callie investigates a charity that’s applied to receive  a grant from her millionaire philanthropist boss, presenting cheques to those charities that earn her approval. While she investigates the charity, Callie also solves a complex mystery that happens to occur at the same time.

Each story features a distinct charity and a unique mystery in a thoughtfully-researched setting.

You could read only one of the books, or read them out of sequence, and enjoy them very much. Yet, if you did, you’d miss out on the richness of the larger stories the author has woven throughout.

One of those larger stories is the developing relationship between Callie and her mysterious boss, Tom Bennett. You might have predicted that. There’s nothing predictable, however, about each book’s plot, or about the way Tom and Callie’s relationship grows. Plot development is  complex and unpredictable, highly unusual but totally believable.

The stories are written in first person, from Callie’s point-of-view, and the author keeps a tight rein on what the reader is allowed to know. We know only what Callie knows, and we learn more only as Callie learns more. Looking back, we realize the cues to the final conflict were building all along, but Callie doesn’t recognize them at the time… so we don’t either. Well done, Ms. Clark!

Callie learns a lot over the five books, and she grows accordingly. But the author wisely maintains Callie’s essential character and personality. Unlike what I see in some novel series, Callie isn’t a chameleon, taking on different personalities in accordance with the author’s whims, adapting to fit the twists and turns of plot.

Callie’s first-person voice fits her orderly character, and it also remains consistent. The word-crafting style is also consistent. It’s not necessarily excellent, but it is very good, and minor weaknesses don’t hamper the story. (Clark uses exclamation marks and the words “that” and “simply” more often than I think necessary. But I can get over those.)

All in all, The Million Dollar Mysteries is a terrific series. I hope you’ll check it out, and read it all the way through. If the first few pages of A Penny For Your Thoughts don’t grab you, please keep reading. The action will pick up within a few pages, and soon you’ll be hooked for the whole five-book ride.

Purchase autographed copies from Mindy’s website. Or borrow them from the Calgary Public Library or your local public library.

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~ by Laureen Guenther on September 24, 2012.

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