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Angel's Verdict

Angel's Verdict, February 2011
Beaufort & Company #4
by Mary Stanton

Berkley
Featuring: Brianna Winston-Beaufort
290 pages
ISBN: 042523987X
EAN: 9780425239872
Kindle: B004H0M8D6
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"Heaven or Hell - it's an angel's dilemma in this cozy mystery"

Fresh Fiction Review

Angel's Verdict
Mary Stanton

Reviewed by Sharon Galligar Chance
Posted March 6, 2011

Mystery Woman Sleuth

Many people consider lawyers two-faced, but in Brianna "Bree" Winston-Beaufort's case, her law practice really is divided in two. Her "day" gig pays the bills and funds her "other" job as the celestial advocate pleading for the souls of her clients otherwise condemned to Hell. Bree receives a visit from elderly actress Justine Coville, who says that she'd like to update her will. But before she leaves, she shares with Bree that she thinks that someone is trying to injure her on the set of Bitter Tide, a movie being made about the murder of Savannah's infamous 1950s B-actress Haydee Quinn.

Justine is playing the role of Consuelo Bulloch, and is using one of Consuelo's brooches to help her feel a connection to the character. But when Bree touches the brooch, she senses that Consuelo wants her help. Not sure what she can do to help either of them, Bree takes both cases, and soon discovers that both her earthly and "spiritual" clients have even more in common than she'd first thought.

During the investigation Bree is introduced to an outcast angel, Dent, who is really one of two detectives from the original case. He needs to seek forgiveness for arresting the man wrongfully convicted and executed for the murder. Between the two of them, the sleuthing duo manages to determine the real killer's identity, but will it be too late to save Justine as well as help Consuelo and Dent achieve their heavenly reward?

ANGEL'S VERDICT, author Mary Stanton's fourth novel in her Beaufort and Company Mystery series, is a lively, fast-paced story that will thrill and chill readers as they race through the pages to find out "who dun it." Stanton's creative storytelling is flawless and her inclusion of a spiritual aspect to her mysteries gives the series the novelty edge that pushes them to the forefront of favorite cozy mysteries.

Learn more about Angel's Verdict

SUMMARY

Celestial advocate Brianna Winston-Beaufort is eager to set aside handling appeals for condemned souls and get back to practicing law in the land of the living. Three months after taking over the family practice Bree jumps at the opportunity to work for an earthly client. But when elderly actress Justine Coville walks into Beaufort & Company's office to make changes to her will, she drags Bree right back into a whole other-world of troubles.

Excerpt

Prologue

Front Street, Savannah, Georgia
July 4, 1952

Fireworks on the Savannah River: a star-burst of vermillion, gold and blue cascaded through the inky night, the colors drifting to oblivion on the breeze that came off the midnight water. The crowd gathered on the cobblestone walk along the banks sighed, and sighed again as three more rockets went off in quick succession, showering glitter with careless exuberance. Here and there along the cobblestone street, a scatter of bonfires thrust a fierce orange glow against the shadows.

One of the fires was moving.

Lt. Edgar O’Malley, shoulders resting against the warehouse wall, hands shoved into his trouser pockets, pushed his hat a little further back on his head and narrowed his eyes. He was off duty, after a sleepless twenty-four stretch on the Haydee Quinn murder. So what he was seeing wasn’t real. It was a fragment of nightmare, borne of fatigue. An hallucination. There was a pint of rye in the inside pocket of his suit coat; as he reached for it, the screams started: Just one, at first, the startled shriek of a horrified woman; then a shout; then the confused clamor of a terrified horde of people.

The blazing fire moved on. The flames billowed up from the handcart; some part of O’Malley’s mind registered it as a baler wagon, maybe from the Cotton Exchange up on Bay Street. And he knew the man who pushed it. The cart bumped awkwardly along the cobbled street, the wheels groaning over the uneven bricks. The youngster behind it cried out a long continuous mourning keen, a wail of grief, his head thrown back, and his mouth wide open to the dark sky above. Alexander Bulloch. Haydee’s lover. A briefly-considered suspect in Haydee’s death, until Bagger Norris confessed and the case was done.

The stench from the cart was overwhelming: A roasted stink of flesh corrupted by flame. The iron wheels groaned, skidded, and the cart tipped over, throwing flaming logs across the stones. A blackened human form hung halfway from the cart. The flames hadn’t yet consumed the hair, which stirred in the wind as if lifted by a loving hand. Black as a crow’s wing, black as a starless night, no longer scented with gardenias, but the scent of burning. Haydee’s hair. Haydee herself hung from the cart, the violet eyes now sockets in her grinning skull, the creamy skin now flaked into ash.

O’Malley turned and ran up the iron steps, as if pursued by the corpse itself.


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