Allen J. Hubin


GILLIAN ROBERTS – Philly Stakes. Scribners, hardcover, 1989. Fawcett, paperback, 1990.

    Philly Stakes is the second (after Caught Dead in Philadelphia) novel about Philadelphia private schoolteacher Amanda Pepper by Gillian Roberts (the criminous pseudonym of mainstream novelist Judith Greber).

    Amanda teaches a particularly challenging array of early teen-agers, and, in groping for a way to make Dickens real, conceives of a Christmas party. Her notion is that the children will feed the poor, but the father of one child, a wealthy businessman, turns it to his own ends. At first.

    It begins as a publicity-laden event with said businessman playing Santa Claus. It ends with his playing unmourned corpse, and three people confessing to the act. The case really isn’t assigned to detective C. K. Mackenzie, Amanda’s rather good friend, but it seems to be his anyway. It certainly isn’t assigned to Amanda, but there she is, squarely in the muddle of it.

    Quite pleasant, this tale, smoothly narrated and with an extremely well-hidden killer.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1990.

        The Amanda Pepper series —

1. Caught Dead in Philadelphia (1987)
2. Philly Stakes (1989)
3. I’d Rather Be in Philadelphia (1992)
4. With Friends Like These… (1993)
5. How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1994)
6. In The Dead of Summer (1995)
7. The Mummers’ Curse (1996)
8. The Bluest Blood (1998)
9. Adam and Evil (1999)
10. Helen Hath No Fury (2000)
11. Claire and Present Danger (2003)
12. Till the End of Tom (2004)
13. A Hole in Juan (2006)
14. All’s Well That Ends (2007)