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The first two “Trash ’n’ Treasures” mysteries in a series by “Barbara Allan,” a pseudonym used by the husband and wife mystery writing team of Barbara and Max Allan Collins are a delight for antiques buyers and sellers as well as mystery lovers who enjoy being one step ahead of the story.
Featuring the antics of mother and daughter reluctant amateur sleuths Vivian and Brandy Borne, the series begins with “Antiques Roadkill,” which introduces both women and their Mississippi riverside community of Serenity quickly while also setting up the elements of the book’s overall mystery: Who killed a shady antiques dealer who just happened to bilk Vivian out of her family heirlooms? Before either lady is hauled off to jail as a potential murder suspect, the duo work to solve the case with the local police.
The writing is deft with a light touch necessary for this level of mystery. There are no deep meanings to be found in any of the short chapters, each of which ends with an antiques buying tip. Many of those tips will be familiar to longtime collectors, but there may well be one or two they hadn’t thought of. The tips also reflect the Collins’ familiarity with the antiques and collectibles world.
After such a promising debut, readers may want to dive immediately into the second book, “Antiques Maul,” in which the ladies open their own stall in a local store. This time the mystery focuses on whether a large dog (Brad Pit Bull) killed his owner or if foul play was involved. It’s a departure from the earlier book, with an animal as the chief suspect rather than a human, but it works here. Along the way, we also meet Brandy’s ex-husband and 10-year-old son.
Again, the mystery is easy to follow and the Collinses drop clues along the way like breadcrumbs that sharp-eyed and quick-witted readers will easily spot and put together to solve the mystery before the book’s end. The tips at each chapter’s end this time focus more on selling than buying and are as valuable as those in the first volume.
If $22 for a thin hardcover seems expensive, wait just a bit as the paperback edition should be available later this year, just as the third volume, “Antiques Flee Market,” comes out in paperback.
These are excellent books to carry along to an antique show or sale when you need a few minutes of light reading escape during lunch or a lull in the action. And, if you enjoy these stories from the Collins team, check out their individual works as well. There are dozens of excellent books available from both Barbara and Max. ?
Antiques Roadkill, Kensington, $6.99 (paperback), 269 pgs., Antiques Maul, Kensington, $22 (hardcover), 226 pgs. Author: Barbara Allan (aka Barbara and Max Allan Collins), www.kensingtonbooks.com.
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