DOC IN THE BOX by Elaine Viets
Dell, July 2000
Francesca Vierling is trying to juggle a boss who has it out for her, a daily newspaper column, getting her best friend and editor to the doctor for her chemotherapy, a long-lost lover who she is too proud to call, and a missing male stripper. When someone decides to start a murder rampage, killing St. Louis's cancer doctors, Francesca finds herself in the thick of it. If she can solve the mystery, her job is safe. If not, finding the missing male stripper won't help.
As Francesca digs into the murders, one thing becomes clear--any regrets over the deaths are purely out of politeness. One murdered receptionist routinely refused to do anything to help, reading romance novels and flirting with interns while patients suffered. One of the doctors was about to divorce his wife and marry his pregnant nurse. One of the doctors had a habit of refusing to make referrals since they cost him his HMO bonus, and one would walk out of a customer meeting to call his broker. If the killer wasn't threatening Francesca, she might be a lot more sympathetic with him/her than with the not-so-innocent victims.
Elaine Viets writes a light and funny murder mystery. Francesca has a bit of the blue collar appeal popularized by Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum (see our review of HOT SIX). Viets' description of the office politics at the St. Louis City Gazette will ring true to anyone who works in an office. As a character, Francesca suffered a bit because she spent too much time mourning her lost relationship with Lyle. I would have liked to see a tighter integration between the male stripper and the remainder of the mystery. If this was intended as a red herring, we weren't given enough clues. If it was thrown in for titilation, the page count could have been better used to increase the sense of danger for Francesca. Not withstanding these quibbles, DOC IN THE BOX is a fine light mystery.
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