by Alexis Koetting
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432831233
Date: 09 September 2015 / Show Official Info /
Bella James, a TV star makes the transition to the stage in Encore by Alexis Koetting, but soon finds herself embroiled in murder when a skeleton is found by her dog in the garden of her rented home. The death occurred some thirty years ago. Once the identity of the dead woman is discovered, Bella finds herself in the killer's sights.
The house Bella rents is the same house where noted Canadian actress Olivia Childries lived thirty years ago. Supposedly Olivia was interrupted during a love tryst with her agent, and her husband was suspected of beating her so badly, she was unrecognizable with no memory of her past. After lengthy hospitalization and reconstructive surgery, she eventually returned to the stage and became famous. The husband was never prosecuted.
When the police chief decides the case of the unidentified skeleton is unsolvable, he closes down the investigation and takes Detective Sergeant Jeffers off the case. Despite this, Bella, who played a police detective on television, teams with Jeffers to pursue their own investigation.
None of the people involved with house at the time of the death want to talk about the tragedy and also discourage further investigation. However, there are anomalies in witness statements. Once Bella and Jeffers identify the victim, evidence begins to eventually point toward Olivia.
An old neighbor living down the street from Bella may hold the answer, but she has disappeared. Bella and Jeffers worry she may also be a victim. When the police chief discovers Jeffers and Bella are investigating, he is furious however his superior tells Jeffers to continue.
The mystery has similar elements to other Five Star mysteries with a murder in the past influencing the present and a few with theatrical settings. In particular, Gail Lukasik's Peak Season for Murder covers similar ground.
A Canadian actress, Koetting knows about theater and actors. Encore is the first of a series featuring Bella St. James and is her debut novel. She supplies plenty of twists and enough red herrings to hold the reader's interest.