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Right to Remain Silent: 11/25/09

Last summer I bought as many of the Connor Westfall mysteries as I could find having read and enjoyed Blind Side and Silence is Golden. As part of my goal to read for fun, I pulled the first of my stash of the mysteries by Penny Warner that I could find. The one I picked was 0553579622?p_isbn">Right to Remain Silent.

Right to Remain Silent is the third book in the series and comes two books before Blind Side. Fortunately Connor is a rather talkative protagonist so she fills in the details. The mysteries themselves are self contained, focusing on one piece of Flat Skunk's history or culture. I find the timeline easy enough to pick up even with reading the books out of order.

This book opens with Sparkle Bodie waking up during an autopsy, scaring the small town medical examiner half to death. Before she can explain what had happened, Sparkle is murdered. Connor suspects the Bodie fortune might be the reason behind her death

To complicate things further, the lead suspect isn't mentally handicapped as everyone in the town believes; he's deaf and uneducated. He has lived such a sheltered life he hasn't had a chance to learn how to read, write or sign. Connor's given the difficult task of communicating with him to see what he knows.

Connor Westfall and her asides about deaf culture, ASL, and the gadgetry that makes living in the hearing world easier is a big part of why I adore these series. She's like a happy version of Kinsey Millhone. I'm guessing that she had a better childhood too. It's refreshing to have a well adjusted lead for a cozy mystery series.

The second thing I adore about the series is the mystery itself. The murders start early in the book but the solution to the crime is obfuscated with red herrings and town gossip while still giving the feeling that the plot is moving along.

Finally there is Flat Skunk. It's like every old town California. Anyone familiar with California history will recognize the bits and pieces that make up Flat Skunk. Sure, the town morphs a little between stories to fit the needs of the current mystery but I don't mind. It's a completely fictional town set no where specific except that it's in the Sierra Nevadas and in and old gold mining town. It's one of the rare gold mining towns to have survived the end of the gold rush.

For Right to Remain Silent Flat Skunk draws on the mining history (minus the tragic fires of 1892 and 1932) of Bodie California. Bodie (named for W. S. Bodey) was founded shortly after Bodey and "Little Black" Taylor discover gold. The first recorded use of the misspelled town name is October 15, 1862. By the second fire in 1932 though and the Depression, the remaining inhabitants abandoned the city ruins. The dry air has preserved the town and everything in it. The town is now a state park. Mixed in with landmarks from Bodie, are some spots from Old Town Sacramento but that's the charm of Flat Skunk, California!

The series:

  • Dead Body Language (1997)
  • Sign of Foul Play (1998)
  • Right to Remain Silent (1999)
  • A Quiet Undertaking (2000)
  • Blind Side (2001)
  • Silence is Golden (2003)
    Dead Man's Hand (2007)

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