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    Minotaur Books, February, 2001

    Roland Lester was one of Hollywood's biggest directors, so famous for his romances that he was nicknamed the Merchant of Venus. Now in his eighties, he entices Octavia Thorn, a Broadway actress hoping to make it in the movies with a proposition. If she marries him, he'll give her the key to huge wealth and power. Octavia agrees but demands a real wedding bringing her estranged sister Cordelia and Cordelian's friend Jane Lawless into the picture. When Cordelia and Jane arrive at the mansion, they find a strange and unhealthy family filled with conflict. Roland's brother has slavishly worshiped him for years. His late lover's son appears to hate him, yet arrives each Christmas seeking something. Roland's great niece believes she will inherit the mansion and has created a web-based business based on her life and constant web-cam coverage of her exploits.

    Jane can't help snoop, but what she finds here is explosive. Roland was once suspected of an unsolved murder. By changing his will and promising to come out of the closet, he has offended everyone close to him and given them motive--for murder.

    THE MERCHANT OF VENUS is an interesting mystery with special interest for anyone fascinated by Hollywood legend and history. Ellen Hart writes convincing action sequences--unfortunately she should do so more often. Too much of the novel consists of long expositive dialogue. Jane and Cordelia, in particular, spend far too much time obsessed with their clothes, their diet, their lack of happiness. Reading THE MERCHANT OF VENUS was a pleasure which is why I am reviewing it and giving it two stars. It is a pleasure that could have benefited, however, from significant trimming to speed up the pace.

    See more reviews of mysteries by Ellen Hart.

    Two Stars

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