In Elementary, My Dear Watkins, the third of her Smart Chicks mystery series, Mindy Starns Clark really hits her stride. Don’t be fooled by the series name, this is not a chick lit novel, either in style, voice or even point of view.
Jo Tulip is hounded by her ex-fiance, Bradford, who begs for a chance to explain why he jilted her at the altar. Having moved on and found true love with her best friend, Danny, she has little interest in trying to reconcile, but his persistence pays off and she agrees to meet him. To her shock Bradford reveals much more than she bargained for. Not only was he paid to marry her, but her life is in danger. Jo can’t credit his assertions—until she is almost pushed in front of a subway train, and Bradford is seriously injured trying to save her life.
Danny Watkins is in Paris pursuing the opportunity of a lifetime for an aspiring photographer, an internship with Scene It magazine. It is a three-month commitment and he would be sitting on top of the world, if only he hadn’t had to leave Jo behind, in order to take the assignment. When someone tries to get him fired and odd things begin to happen he begins to become concerned about Jo’s safety, but what can he do from Europe?
The danger quickly escalates and Jo seeks refuge at her grandmother’s estate. As the mystery progresses, Jo must figure out how the development of a new medical miracle drug, an old will, and her almost marriage fitted together to place her in danger. And more importantly, how to escape the threat.
There were a few clichés at the beginning of the novel, (i.e. the unseen hand pushing the heroine in front of a speeding train), but it quickly moved into new territory. I found it interesting that there was little romantic conflict in this novel. Jo and Danny know they are meant for each other, and they act as a team. In that sense it was almost as if Ms. Clark was portraying an already married couple. That is not to say that there was no conflict, there was plenty, it was just from other, outside sources. I personally found this to be refreshing. They had made a commitment to one another and they never wavered in that regard.
The ending was nicely twisted and the resolution quite satisfying. I definitely recommend this novel.