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    Review of THE UNKINDEST CUT by Honor Hartman


    Signet, June, 2008

    Young widow Emma Diamond has turned to her friends and the game of bridge to help with her recovery from her husband's death. She reluctantly agrees to go along on a weeklong bridge holiday that her next door neighbor is attending in support of a long-time friend. The friend has been married to two bridge experts--and now schemes to get the first one back. But the week in the Texas hill country ends up involving a lot more than bridge when one of the bridge pros turns up dead--the Queen of Diamonds clutched in his hand. Emma knows she's innocent, but was he trying to send a message with that card? If so, might the police decide that Emma is the killer?

    Author Honor Hartman (see more reviews of mysteries by Hartman) mixes a cozy mystery with the game of bridge--it's a convincing combination. Anyone who can count out a bridge hand, can decide who's bluffing and who's telling the truth, or can reason out a safety play could also be an effective sleuth. Emma, with her supportive friends and her recent loss makes a sympathetic character.

    For the most part, THE UNKINDEST CUT is an enjoyable light mystery. The history of cards Emma discovers in her attempts to uncover the truth is an entertaining adventure and Emma/Honor's look at the world of bridge is sympathetic and fun (although my bridge experience doesn't include like those Hartman describes). (Spoiler alert) I thought, however, that Hartman cheated a bit in her clues, especially when friend Paula shows up with ex-husband Basil in tow--and the announcement that he's agreed to re-marry her. Considering his obvious reluctance, his agreement is never explained--except that this provides a misleading clue.

    As a bridge teacher and player, I'm excited about bridge being shown as a positive influence on people's life--which indeed it can be. One quibble, however--I recognize that many people, including bridge players, are frightened of duplicate bridge--as is Emma. I hope that if Hartman continues this series, he'll find ways to help Emma overcome this fear. Duplicate bridge is the same as any other game of bridge--with the same cards, same bidding, same rules. Perhaps if Emma gives herself a chance, in BRIDGE CLUB MYSTERY #3, she'll find that duplicate is a great way to play the game.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 6/29/08

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