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Tuesday 8 December 2015

‘Smart but Dead’ by Nancy G. West

Published by Henery Press,
17 November 2015
ISBN: 978-1-943390-25-0

It is 1997 and Aggie Mundeen is determined to fight ageing. This is one battle that Aggie is desperate to win, because she is in love with San Antonio detective, Sam Vanderhoven, and, as she approaches forty, she wishes to be young and beautiful to attract him. Aggie is certain that Sam is fond of her as a friend but she wants much more than that. Aggie was a senior bank executive but now she writes a regular newspaper column, 'Stay Young with Aggie', and is a mature student at her local university. In her past there is a secret personal tragedy as well as an unpleasant divorce and she is determined not to waste the rest of her life.
At the end of the 20th Century the interest in studying genetics to benefit people's health is growing all the time. What course could be more suitable for Aggie than The Science of Ageing? The course is led by an eminent academic, Professor Kermit Carmody. The last time Aggie was in one of Carmody's classes she asked so many awkward questions that she was asked to leave. Aggie needs to attend this genetics class and, this time she is determined to be very good and very quiet and not get excited and ask confrontational questions in class. Unfortunately, Aggie finds this a resolution that's very hard to keep and, in the second class, just after an excited outburst from Aggie, Carmody collapses and dies.

From the first, Aggie is certain that Carmody's death is not from natural causes. She decides that, as her study of genetics is in jeopardy, she will win Sam's affections by her brilliance as a detective Despite pleas from Sam and from Aggie's friend, Meredith, to stay safe, she  starts her own investigation. Another death occurs and soon Aggie's rash behaviour lands her in more trouble than ever before. She finds herself in double danger and it seems inevitable that Aggie will either be tried for murder or be killed herself.

This is the third book in the Aggie Mundeen series but it stands well by itself. Aggie is an impetuous, warm-hearted heroine, blessed with an insatiable curiosity, passion for learning and an unquenchable zest for life. I think her character is encapsulated in her attitude to learning: 'In my mind's eye, learning was brightly colored, joyful, bursting with life, full of promise.'

Smart, but Dead has appendices featuring articles by a eminent scientific expert in the field of genetics. The whole book is a beautifully balanced mixture of scientific fact, detective action, humour and pathos. It is a page-turner, which I read in two days and thoroughly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Nancy Glass West was seven years old, when she and her mother wrote poems to each other on special occasions. In high school, the Library Journal Pegasus published Nancy’s poem. At eighteen, she realized she might have to get a real job.  She heard journalists were underpaid and English majors were selling lingerie, so she studied General Business at the University of Texas and University of Houston and earned a BBA.
A few years later, married, with two daughters, Nancy realized she had to study English literature and write. She read numerous books on writing and wrote articles, poetry, and the biography of artist Jose Vives-Atsara (Shoal Creek Publishers). She founded Book Publishers of Texas, edited their trade journal and promoted their books for seven years. While earning her MA in English literature at University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, she began writing Nine Days to Evil, a novel of psychological suspense, Shakespeare, and nonstop-action which won the Blether Gold Award. As West finished, Nine Days to Evil Meredith Laughlin’s story, Meredith’s “mature” graduate school friend, Aggie Mundeen, took over West’s consciousness. The result was the author’s creation of the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series.       

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Lizzie, for posting this wonderful review by Carol Westron in Mystery People and on your blog. The first Aggie Mundeen mystery is set in 1997, the same year you were a founding member of Mystery Women and attended your first crime conference. Interesting, don't you think?
    Nancy G. West