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    Review of UNFORCED ERROR by Michael Bowen

    Poisoned Pen Press, April 2004

    Intellectual property lawyer Rep Pennyworth figures he'll do just about anything to bring in a big-bucks client. He'll even spend a weekend as a civil war reenactor while he tries to decide whether the publisher really can trademark the idea of a faux civil war unit. He can't figure out how the publisher could make any money at it, but that isn't the lawyer's job and a hundred thousand bucks is real money. But when an editor ends up killed and Rep's friend Peter is the lead suspect, Rep realizes he's going to have to do more than dry lawyering--he'll have to figure out what really happened before Peter is sent to prison.

    The dead man isn't exactly a saint--he had an affair with Peter's wife, for one thing--which gives Rep and his wife Melissa a cast of suspects. But the police like to follow the obvious, especially when Peter's civil war cavalry sabre tests positive for the dead man's DNA. Plenty of library research into civil war battles and Vichy France politics, as well as a scad of literary illusions add depth to the story as Melissa tries to decide which philosopher to use to advise her friend--finally to decide on Travis McGee (of John D. MacDonald fame) and Rep finally agrees to play Nick and Nora (of The Thin Man fame) with Melissa.

    Author Michael Bowen (see more reviews of novels by Bowen) dishes up plenty of plenty of literary illusions for fans of mystery and literature, a clever opening scene involving a potential affair and reality T.V. and some interesting looks into civil war reenacting. I thought that the final revelation into the badguy's ultimate plot was a bit over the top, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the adventure, the witty dialogue, or the way nerdy librarians, book editors, and intellectual property lawyers become action heros.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 7/19/04

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    What do you think? Too generous? Too stingy? Or did I miss the entire point? Send your comments to Give me the okay to use your name and I'll publish all the comments that fit (and don't use unprintable language).

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