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Feisty Kiernan has appeal. She was a social worker before an Agatha Christie novel inspired her to try her hand at writing mysteries. Six attempts and six years later, she published Karma , which began a ten-book series about brash Berkeley cop Jill Smith. Since then, Dunlap has published more than twenty novels and numerous short stories. In addition to writing, Dunlap has taught yoga, worked as a paralegal, and helped found Sisters in Crime, an organization created to support women in the field of mystery writing. She lives near San Francisco. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join.

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Ships in 15 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Industry Reviews "[A] promising start to a new detective series. Cari Mora. In Stock.

Pious Deception

Six Minutes. The Ottoman Secret. Eight Lives Order a signed copy! The First Mistake. Susan Dunlap has published mystery novels featuring several popular series characters: amateur detective Vejay Haskell, police detective Jill Smith, and medical examiner turned private investigator Kiernan O'Shaughnessy. Similarities abound between the characters. For instance, all three are, in various ways, symbols of feminist independence. Vejay avoids a serious relationship, and Jill, despite a steady boyfriend, manages to maintain a sense of separation.

Kiernan owns a kitchenless duplex, an Irish wolfhound , a big sport utility vehicle, and a little sports car, and employs a former football player as a housekeeper.

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For all three, career changes put them in a position to become investigators, though neither Jill's promotion nor Kiernan's shift of focus are nearly as extreme as the break Vejay makes with her own past. Sue Trowbridge, on the Interbridge Web site, called Dunlap "a true pioneer in the field of crime novels with female protagonists. Vejay, a former public relations executive, leaves a high-powered job and her husband to become a meter reader for Pacific Gas and Electric in the Russian River Resort north of San Francisco.

Her job allows her plenty of access to people's homes and other places off-limits to most amateur sleuths. Her work as a detective begins in An Equal Opportunity Death, when she is accused of murdering a bartender she once dated.


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To clear herself, Vejay goes into action, bringing to bear the resources at her disposal as a meter reader. Kathleen Maio of Wilson Library Bulletin, who called it "not a memorable mystery," concluded that the book "promises better things to come.

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The Bohemian Connection takes place during a festival at the Russian River Resort, when Vejay learns that the body of a coworker's niece has been found in a sewer. As the mystery unfolds, she finds a connection between the murder and a drug-and-prostitution ring associated with the festival itself. The story culminates with the dredging of a cesspool, which yields some surprises.

A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that Vejay is "not well served in this obvious and unfocused plot," and a Kirkus Reviews writer quoted a comment from the heroine in an appraisal of the book's plot: "It was already more than I wanted to know. The slugs in The Last Annual Slugfest are not bullets or punches from a boxer, but the kind of slugs one finds in the garden—only, in the Russian River Resort, they are an escargot-like delicacy.

The celebration of the Slugfest, an annual slug-tasting festival, is disrupted when one of the judges, Edwina Henderson, is poisoned. As Vejay goes to work on the mystery, she discovers a conflict between Edwina and her niece over the niece's relationship with a mystery man in the past. She also learns of a controversy involving an Indian tribe's claim to the resort's property, a claim that Edwina had intended to publicize.

The plot thickens when Vejay discovers that the treaty on which the claim was based is a forgery. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "overplotted, over-populated, overwrought, and dull," but a reviewer in Publishers Weekly praised the tale's resolution as "a surprise [that] caps off an entertaining story. Dunlap was featured in a mystery writers' cookbook called Cooking with Malice Domestic, published in Commenting that "my view of cooking is that its main use is as a cover for poisons," Dunlap presented the recipe for Slug Pizza.

Dunlap's character Jill Smith, formerly a beat cop, has recently been promoted to homicide detective when her own series begins. As with Vejay Haskell, her surroundings are vital to her stories—in this case, the "radical chic" environment of Berkeley, California. Trowbridge called Dunlap "the Bard of Berkeley," saying that the city provides her with endless inspiration for her Jill Smith mysteries. Site of student unrest in the s, Berkeley has become a refuge for wealthy liberals and eccentrics, not to mention quite a few offbeat down-and-outers, homeless people, and a number of hippie leftovers from an earlier era.

Surrounding Jill is a police department filled with an assortment of temperaments and ethnicities, including beat officer Connie Pereira, aspiring physical therapist Murakawa, and jealous Sergeant Grayson. To get a feel for the way a police department works, Dunlap told Trowbridge in the Interbridge interview, she participated in a ten-week class on police work, which included a "ride along" program with Berkeley officers.

She also called officers with questions that arose as she was writing. Typical of the Berkeley settings for the "Jill Smith" mysteries is that of Karma. Attending a ceremony featuring a self-styled Buddhist holy man, Jill is shocked when the guru suddenly falls dead before an audience—with a knife in his chest. In As a Favor, the murder victim is more conventional, though her role as a worker in the local welfare department could be indicative of Berkeley's liberal and left-wing politics.

In any case, victim Anne Spaulding was a coworker of Jill's ex-husband Nat, who asks Jill to look into the case. Ultimately Jill discovers an intricate welfare scam behind the murder, but not before she has a series of encounters with some of Berkeley's least—and some of its most—wealthy denizens. A Kirkus Reviews critic called As a Favor a "not-very-interesting story. Palmer commented on Dunlap's "lively dialogue, fast pacing, smart characters, and breezy description" of Berkeley.

Not Exactly a Brahmin finds Jill investigating the murder of wealthy philanthropist Ralph Palmerston, a perplexing case because he was admired by virtually everyone who knew him. A Publishers Weekly critic called it "a suspenseful, fast-paced mystery," and a Booklist reviewer referred to it as "an intriguing tale" in spite of somewhat "sketchy" details on police procedure.

A handicapped activist turns up drowned in Too Close to the Edge, a mystery involving a local gang that steals high-priced designer running shoes. At the book's climax, Jill and the killer battle it out in a helicopter above San Francisco Bay.

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A Booklist reviewer called this last scene "hair-raising," and a contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that the book, despite a slow start, is "Dunlap's most accomplished work yet. Jill is thrust into another mystery with the murder of a chef in A Dinner to Die For. She also has problems in her personal life as she recovers from injuries sustained in Too Close to the Edge.

A Booklist reviewer noted the novel's "sparkling good humor," and a Publishers Weekly contributor called it "an appealing mystery with tangy details on the Bay Area's changing environs and characters. Involved in a steady relationship, Jill wants to spend more time with her lover, but mysteries such as the one in Diamond in the Buff keep getting in the way of her plans. The nude referred to in the title is a sunbathing dentist, who complains about a neighbor who has allegedly beaten him with a eucalyptus branch.


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Things get ugly when another man is thrown off his deck to his death. In spite of some unlikely coincidences, wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, the book is a "witty police procedural. In Death and Taxes, Jill's lover, Seth Howard, also a policeman, is deep in the middle of filing his taxes when Jill learns that a notorious IRS auditor—"one of the most hated employees of the nation's most-loathed bureaucracy"—has been murdered. Naturally, it is hard for Jill to feel sympathetic for the victim in this case, but she puts her mind to solving the mystery.

Although Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review criticized the abundance of information about taxes when compared with the "airy" details on police procedure, a Booklist contributor pronounced Death and Taxes "every bit as much fun as its predecessors. As is often the case in "Jill Smith" mysteries, seemingly unrelated activities come together in Time Expired: a hostage situation, the murder of a cantankerous lawyer, and an elaborate scheme involving parking tickets.

Klett commented that "the plot remains minimal," and a Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "this is no spine-tingler.

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Sudden Exposure, Dunlap told Trowbridge, was inspired by a nudity movement in Berkeley. It begins with a conflict between Sam Johnson, an over-the-hill radical activist, and his next-door neighbor, a former Olympic diver named Bryn Wiley. Bryn claims that Sam has been shooting at her car, and things get ugly when someone shoots at Bryn's vehicle and kills a person inside it. Jill begins to investigate and discovers that things are not what they seem in Bryn's neighborhood—one neighbor, in fact, does not even officially exist.

This installment in the "Jill Smith" series is, in the view of Booklist reviewer Emily Melton, "a clear winner, thanks to an original plot, plenty of eccentric characters, and Dunlap's trademark breezy style. The mystery in Cop Out hits uncomfortably close to home for Jill. For years she has worked with a private eye named Herman Ott, using him as an informant. Both Jill and Herman are renegades, which has put both at odds with Jill's police department.