Murder at Zubov House of Sambo in “A Darling of Death”


A Darling of Death
In A Darling of Death by Gin Jones, Helen Binney is frustrated with her increasingly worsening lupus and decides to take her emotional response into her own hands by joining the Zubov House of Sambo and hitting something. The only problem is that her friend, Kolya Zubov, owner of the martial arts studio, insists she learn to breathe first by studying tae chi instead of hitting things. Helen watches as a man spars with a woman, who shows clear superiority in the art of sambo over the man but plays dirty, injuring the man’s shoulder. Helen would love to get that good, but since Kolav insists she learn to breathe first, Helen takes a lesson in tae chi. When she goes to the locker room after her lesson, she finds one of the showers running, but when she discovers the body of Danica, the woman Helen watched spar, lying in a puddle in the shower stall, Helen realizes she has a new mystery on her hands.

Aided by her faithful driver, Jack, Helen starts to go around her small Massachusetts town, but someone doesn’t want her to poke her nose into the murder and tries to stop her. In the meantime, Helen has other concerns. Ambrose Tate, Helen’s former lawyer, who rents her garage in which to do his woodworking and with whom Helen has recently developed a love interest, is being altogether too nice to her, scaring Helen. And then there is the mystery of the goings on at the nursing home, where Helen visits her friends to catch up on all the local gossip. Why have the directors been holed up in a conference room at a local B&B for days? Helen has a lot on her plate, all while dealing with the lupus that is attacking her body.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to listen to A Darling of Death. As in the previous four books in this series, I highly appreciated the mystery, as well as the characters, who had real depth to them as individuals. The mystery kept me guessing about the direction it would take and often surprised me despite the book’s having only a few major characters. The plot is heightened by the believability of the characters, who come alive in the reader’s mind. I particularly appreciated the way Helen deals honestly with her lupus and has to deal with the limitations caused by living with a chronic medical condition. However, she doesn’t let the lupus control her but instead works around her disabilities.

Lisa Valdini performs the audio edition of this book. Her voicing of Helen and other characters makes them spring to life in the listeners’ minds, adding to the already vivid depictions of these characters by Jones. I like the way Valdini often sounds as if she is smiling as she performs this book. The voices she uses for her characters and the expression given to narrating the book add even further to the positive listening experience.

A Darling of Death was a highly enjoyable book that I appreciated getting to listen to and wanted to finish all in one sitting. As it neared a conclusion, I found myself both eager to learn the solution and dreading reaching the end because I didn’t want to leave the world of Helen Binney. I give this book five stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free for review purposes, but that had no influence on the content of my review.

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