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This is not your average "cozy" mystery and Toni Underwood
is not your average mystery sleuth. In brief, if you are looking
for a Murder She Wrote/Jessica Fletcher type mystery cozy (no
violence, no sex), I would recommend that you keep searching.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a sexy lesbian sleuth
or a bit of lesbian erotic with a mystery plot, this might be
your cup of tea.
By every definition Diane Davidson's Deadly Butterfly (the
third offering in the Toni Underwood series) is a cozy mystery.
It is a series with an amateur detective. The setting is quaint
with most of the novel taking place in the heroine's home and
in the case of this novel, on a remote island during off-season.
The crimes are domestic or personally motivated, no corporate
or national conspiracies. The weapons are of the common variety
available to any one. Much of the discovery in the novel occurs
during the consuming of food, beverage, or around a fireplace
There is occasional humor and lots of romantic tension. All that
seems to be missing is the proverbial lap-sitting cat or other
adorable pet. That is where the similarity to a cozy ends. While
most of the violence does occurs off-stage as in cozies, there
is some graphic violence and a lot of blood. What, however, shatters
the rules for the cozy genre is the very graphic sex. As a rule,
cozies have a "G" rating for purity and can be handed
to a innocent child or prudish senior without the least concern
about profanity or sexual express. In every respect, but the last,
this is a light-weight cozy mystery.
Toni Underwood is an ex-policewoman trying to find herself. After
the death of her lover, Megan (Deadly Rendezvous- first
book in the series) and the murder of her aunt Vera (Deadly
Gamble - second book), Toni is independently wealth as the
sole heir of her aunt's estate and feels she is finally ready
to commit to a new relationship. Match-making friends bring Toni
to a party, where she is introduced to the hostess, Darcy Bennett.
The two seem to hit it off right away, but Darcy is in desperate
need of a vacation. Violent childhood nightmares have returned
and are disrupting her concentration at work. A week's vacation
away with Toni visiting her Aunt Mae on deserted Whidbey Island,
off the coast of Seattle, seems like just the perfect place to
regain her sanity and catch a little RR&R (rest, relaxation,
and romance). Meanwhile, Aaron Blake, a psychopathic killer has
escaped from the Washington State Mental Institution. He has killed
before and there is little doubt that he will kill again. What
was so important that Darcy's co-worker, Sue Olsen, felt completed
to drive to Darcy's apartment late at night in the pouring rain?
Was Aaron Blake responsible for her murder? Or was Sue's murder
a case of mistaken identity, the results of marital discord, or
a job related secret? And what happened to her briefcase that
she never left unattended even when she visited the ladies room?
Does it possible hold a clue? And why is Aunt Mae so convinced
that Aaron Blake is after Darcy?
As mystery novels go, the mysteries in this one were not all that
difficult to figure out. Instead of developing suspense by supplying
red herrings, the author built only a little tension before shows
her cards. For me, the major tension in the plot focused on the
possibility of Darcy surviving to the end of the novel. (Toni's
previous lovers do not seem to last very long.) In addition, I
must admit that most of the time given the graphic sexual content,
I was not sure if I was reading lesbian erotica that happened
to have a mystery as a plot device or a cozy mystery that stretched
the definition by being overly graphic.
In conclusion, this is not your grandmother's cozy mystery. It
is more violent and erotic than is the norm for that genre. If
you are looking for a quick and easy read to curl up with in bed,
this book will do, but it will most likely also provoke more erotic
thoughts than curiosity about the murders.
© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S.
in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S.
in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University,
and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological
Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed
Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor
in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.
Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between
psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the
role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause
as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical
accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted"
female Christian mystics and additional biographical information,
I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences
and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of
hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual
topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having
"vision" on or about the age of 40!