ForeWord Reviews

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Bad Blood

Foreword Review

Bad Blood is a fun, old-style whodunit to engage amateur sleuths.

If Nancy Drew and Sam Spade had spawned a child, it would be Alexis J. (Lexie) Smith, a smart-cookie private eye with attitude whose “discreet inquiries” quickly solve crimes, repair fractured families, and put thugs where they belong. Set in the late 1940s, Bad Blood is the second book in E. E. Smith’s mystery series featuring detective Lexie Smith.

The book’s title is a clever descriptor for the novel’s two rather disjointed story lines. One, set in Sacramento, focuses on the bad blood of fractured family relationships. The other, set in London, centers on a forensic scientist’s discovery of a formula for artificial blood. Each tale could be a self-contained mystery, replete with shadowy characters and tough talk.

Action begins in Lexie’s shabby third-floor walk-up office when the half-sister to the detective’s murdered former heartthrob Frank, hires Smith to investigate her stepmother for stealing an expensive necklace. Lexie’s expert sleuthing endears the detective to the wealthy, well-connected parents of her late unrequited love, providing a clear boost to her struggling business.

The second half of the novel takes place in England, site of action for the first book in the series, Death by Misadventure. Lexie returns to Britain, responding to a “request” from an MI5 detective inspector to whom she owes a favor. She must spy on a former professor who invented a formula for making artificial blood, a formula so important that governments and underworld figures around the globe are willing to go to great lengths to obtain it.

Bad Blood is an easy-to-read mystery with appealing characters and enough foreshadowing to allow readers to play detective along with Smith. In typical “hardboiled” style, the novel includes a crusty detective, brandished weapons and gunshots, car chases, and tethered victims, and sufficient twists to keep readers’ interest.

The tale is a welcome respite from contemporary mysteries that too often describe grisly murders in the goriest detail possible. Instead, Bad Blood is an old-style whodunit that focuses on spare descriptions and pithy dialogue to move the plot forward. Neither literary nor complex, Bad Blood nonetheless is a fun read, one interesting enough to keep amateur sleuths involved without taxing them unduly.

Bad Blood is a good book to read while curled up in front of the fireplace on a snowy evening or stretched out on a chaise lounge under the summer sun.

Nancy Walker