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    Review of BEAT UNTIL STIFF by Claire M. Johnson

    Poisoned Pen Press, 2002

    Since her husband left her for another woman, Mary Ryan has sunk herself into the 16 hour days of a restaurant pastry chef. But when she arrives early one morning and stumbles over the dead body of one of the wait staff, she is yanked from her lethargy and feels compelled to investigate--despite clear warnings from cop ex-husband Jim and Jim's former partner, O'Connor. Mary's search takes her all over San Francisco and she gradually uncovers evidence that the murder is more than random violence. Something is going on at the restaurant where she works--something that may put her in grave danger.

    Author Claire M. Johnson delivers a well written story in her debut novel, BEAT UNTIL STIFF--and what a killer title. I took a while to warm to Mary Ryan, the protagonist as he full emersion in self-pity quickly wore thin and her motivation for investigation seemed a bit shaky. Still, it's hard not to like a 30-something woman determined to make it in the rough world of food service, and determined to uncover the truth about the death of a friend.

    Johnson's view of the restaurant world, with its base of immigrants, self-obsessed prima-donna chefs, gay creative talents, and wine tasting parties rings true as does her city of San Francisco.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 5/10/03

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