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Twists and turns in ‘Look Closer’; sniffing out trouble in ‘Wedding Plot’ – Sun Sentinel

‘Look Closer’ by David Ellis. Putnam, 464 pages, $27

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Edgar winner David Ellis has long been a go-to author for involving legal thrillers that land on best-sellers lists. But novels written since by Ellis have been missing 2013 (“The Last Alibi”) with good reason. He has had a string of best sellers as one of James Patterson’s co-authors. And Ellis became the youngest-serving Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District in 2014.

“Look Closer” marks a much-welcome return of Ellis’ solo work. It comes with his trademark labyrinthine plots that spin on twist after twist and several never-saw-that-coming turns.

Believable characters careen throughout “Look Closer” as Ellis is never shy about exploring unlikable characters. Arrogant law professor Simon Dobias is the immediate suspect in the death of Lauren Betancourt in her suburban Chicago home. The two had an acrimonious history 19 years ago and had recently begun an affair, which Simon chronicled in a diary. (Hint: If you are going to have an affair don’t keep a journal!)

Simon’s wife, Vicky Lanier, has begun her own affair with financial advisor Christian Newsome, whom she enlists to help her steal Simon’s $21 million trust. Christian has his own scheme — he’s a conman who seduces women to steal their money. Vicky will never see a penny of Simon’s funds.

Simon’s churlish personality works well as Ellis makes the reader feel invested in what he will do next.

Ellis juggles romantic triangles, betrayal after betrayal, revenge and greed for a complex plot that evolves into one solid twist after another. Each character’s shady past and their unshakeable present merge into an exciting plot in “Look Closer.”

‘The Wedding Plot’ by Paula Munier. Minotaur, 336 pages, $27.99

The bonds between working dogs and their human handlers have become an formidable category of mysteries, showing how the dogs’ skills can assist people in solving crimes and finding the lost. Who hasn’t been moved by the images of dogs prowling through the rubble of September 11 or the Surfside condo collapse?

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Literary agent Paula Munier continues to put her stamp on this evolving mystery category in the highly entertaining “The Wedding Plot,” her fourth novel about former military police officer Mercy Carr and her bomb-sniffing Malinois shepherd, Elvis. Munier’s series also fits in another expanding mystery category: veterans returning to civilian life.

Mercy served in Afghanistan, where her fiancé — Elvis’ original handler — was killed. Mercy now works as a private investigator, with Elvis’ assistance, of course, and the woman and dog are rebuilding their lives.

Mercy is on hand to help with her grandmother Patience’s wedding at Vermont’s five-star Lady’s Slipper Inn. Dogs aren’t allowed at the inn, but Elvis is not any dog ​​and his training and keen senses are more valuable than any of the vendors. Trouble begins a few days before the nuptials, when the inn’s spa director, Bodhi St. George, goes missing; A stranger’s body is found at a nearby goat farm, and the remains of two other people are discovered.

Then family turmoil begins. Long-time resentment between Mercy’s mother and her aunt bubble up, and the groom’s two sons fight over the family’s business.

While the plot goes a bit sideways toward the end, Munier’s affinity for characters, both human and canine, and their motives continues to shine. While Elvis is a highly trained dog with skills most of our pets will never have, he is still a dog. A very good dog, but not a human in shepherd clothing. Of course, Elvis is a major draw in Munier’s series, as is Susie Bear, the search and rescue Newfie owned by Mercy’s boyfriend, game warden Troy Warner.

A wedding normally would suggest a softer mystery, but Munier straddles that line between lighter and harder stories to elevate “The Wedding Plot.” Plus, there’s Elvis and Susie Bear.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at [email protected].

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