S. L. FLORIAN – Born to the Purple. Zebra, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1992.

   This is billed along the top of the front cover as “A Delia Ross-Marlani Mystery,” which suggests that expectations were that there was going to be more than one. If so, it didn’t happen. There was a point in time when Zebra cut back suddenly and drastically on their line of ongoing mysteries, and that may have been the reason. Or another reason might have been that the author had only one story to tell, and Born to the Purple turned out to be it.

   It isn’t the type of book I usually read, and while this review is generally going to be positive, I have my doubts that I’ll be able to persuade anyone reading this to go track it down. But as that first paragraph might suggest, I have a certain fascination for one-book authors, just to see what they might have to say.

   Let’s start by describing Miss Delia. She’s fabulously wealthy, for starters, the only child of two parents, Lady Adela, the Countess of Ross, and Signor Federico Merlani, who produced Delia and quickly went their own jet style ways, leaving the girl in the hands of Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee and a series of boarding schools but growing up more or less on her own.

   Not only is she beautiful, but she has been a top ranked ballerina, has earned a doctorate in medieval studies at Cambridge, has given concerts playing the harpsichord, taught at Harvard, and competed as an equestrian at the 1984 Olympics. Once married but now divorced.

   Dead is the older sister of the pair of her two best friends, whom she met at boarding school when all three were all very young. The medical examiner’s staff finds nothing suspicious, but Delia is not so sure.

   I hope you are still with me. Obviously with this book she adds becoming an amateur detective to her résumé, and for good reason: Magda was murdered. Assisting her is a good-looking assistant medical examiner, and they (ahem) are soon in bed to together. At which point the courtship begins, and if you don’t mind my saying so, their romance sort of crowds the mystery out of the story for long periods of time.

   But Florian is a good enough writer to overcome all this, and I enjoyed the book. It turns out that the name of the author behind the pseudonym is Susan Sobel-Feldman, whose name I found online on a Jewish magazine’s website, but little more. I don’t know if this oddly charming mystery-romance left anything behind to build another detective story on — but I kind of wish it had happened.