SANDRA WEST PROWELL – Where Wallflowers Die. Phoebe Siegel #3. Walker, hardcover, 1996. Bantam, paperback, 1997.

   I wasn’t as taken with Phoebe’s first two adventures as a lot of people were. I liked them and liked the character, but thought there were some definite rough edges. Prowell has a strong, individual voice, though.

   A Montana politician who’s running for Governor wants Billings PI Phoebe Siegel to investigate the murder of his wife; the catch is, it occurred 27 years ago, and is still an open case. It’s one her dead father had worked on, one that disturbed him a lot.

   Phoebe doesn’t much like politicians, but takes the case anyway. When she starts opening long-closed doors, bad things come out, past death leads to present, and she comes in harm’s way herself.

   I still think Prowell has a way to go before moving up to the Muller /Grafton/Paretsky /Barnes class, but she’s sure better than some female PI writers who are with bigger publishers for probably bigger bucks. My main problem is just that, mine — I don’t find Phoebe Siegel all that likable a protagonist. Too mindlessly antagonistic and wiseass when it’s not called for. Got a mouth on her like a stevedore, too, which may offend some.

   I do think that Prowell tells a pretty good story, and I liked the fact that the ending was at least semi-realistic and didn’t culminate in an orgy of needless violence. Really, if you take to ol’ Phoebe you’ll probably think these are pretty damned good.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.


      The Phoebe Siegel series —

1. By Evil Means (1993)
2. The Killing of Monday Brown (1994)
3. When Wallflowers Die (1996)

      Awards —

Dilys Awards Best Book nominee (1994) : By Evil Means
Shamus Awards Best Novel nominee (1995) : The Killing of Monday Brown
Shamus Awards Best Novel nominee (1997) : When Wallflowers Die