WENDI LEE – The Good Daughter. Angela Matelli #1. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1996.

   Lee is [at the time of this review] the Associate Editor of Mystery Scene, and is married to Terry Beatty. artist of the Max Allan Collins-written crime comic, Ms. Tree. This is her first novel, though she has published short stories featuring Angela Matelli.

   Matelli is an ex-Marine, member of an extended Italian family, and a brand-new PI hanging out her shingle in Boston. She has an ex-cop uncle (“No-Legs” Charley), and a mother and a good sister and a bad sister. Her first case comes to her on her first day through the auspices of the previously mentioned uncle — an ex-cop friend of his wants Angela to investigate a man his daughter is seeing, because he has a bad feeling about him. Something is wrong somewhere. because very quickly her client is killed and Angela herself is attacked.

   A brief aside, telling you that the client is killed is exactly the sort of plat point that I don’t like to see revealed in reviews, but the cover copy gives it away, so why not?Blurb writers are worse than reviewers, sometimes. Often.

   This wasn’t bad. It has the typical focus on family/friend relationships that’s part of almost every mystery write by women, and here they verge on being, but aren’t quite, the irritating kind that ruin so many of the current crop of crime books for me.

   Matelli is a nicely drawn and appealing character, and already stands out from the crowd by not falling for a cop or a suspect in her first book. Lee’s writing is competent and her pacing good, and if she doesn’t know Boston like the back of her hand, she fakes the hell out of it,

   The plot was decent except for one major hole: the client could gave easily done what Matelli did, which was go to a friend on the police and have the background on the suspect dug up. Overall I don’t think Lee is or has the potential to be a threat to any of the top-line PI writers, but she’s certainly better than some.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #17, January 1995.

The Angela Matelli series —


The Good Daughter (1994)
Missing Eden (1996)
Deadbeat (1999)
He Who Dies (2000)
Habeas Campus (2002)

   Short stories:

“Salad Days” (Winter 1994, Noir)
“The Disappearance of Edna Guberman” (1994, Murder For Mother)
“Check Up” (1996, Lethal Ladies)
“The Other Woman” (1997, Vengeance Is Hers)