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    BY HOOK OR BY BOOK by D. R. Meredith

    Berkley Prime Crime, Penguin Putnam, May 2000

    Megan Clark has discovered string figures (making shapes with loops of string building on 'cat's cradle) and talks her mystery readers group into hosting the annual string figure convention. She doesn't count on a sinister man showing up with the mythical lost book of string figures, nor does she count on finding him murdered. Still, that's exactly what she gets.

    Megan is just a little too pushy for the local police department. She isn't a suspect, exactly, but they are suspicious. Megan, on the other hand, is convinced that it is up to her to find the killer before the convention is over and the string figure association members leave the Texas Panhandle for their remote homes. With the help of the mystery readers club (who never quite get to discuss A is for Alibi), Megan sets a trap. Her erstwhile admirer, Ryan Stevens, is concerned that Megan will be the one caught in the trap--but he goes along, as people normally do when Megan puts her forceful personality to work.

    BY HOOK OR BY BOOK is a classic cosy. The amateur sleuth must detect. The reader is given all the clues and asked to detect along with Megan. D. R. Meredith is a talented writer, using a powerful mix of description and dialogue to move the story along. The sub-plot of a romantic interest between Ryan and Megan (with just a hint of a triangle with cop Jerry Carr) adds a human dimension without substantially diminishing the mystery. Meredith has created a number of memorable characters, especially the members of the string society.

    Three Stars

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