Dispatch to Death

Martha Miller

New Victoria Publishers

222 pages

 

There are times a girl just can’t catch a break.

 

Case in point: Trudy Thomas, cab driver. One ordinary, soggy Illinois day Trudy picks up a rain-drenched fare, a mysterious young Hispanic woman named Anita Alvarez, and drops her off near the governor’s mansion. It was the last ordinary day Trudy would have for a long, long time.

 

A routine cleaning of Cab Number 4—which is painted lavender for reasons that have nothing to do with being gay—turns up a key. And then all hell, as they say, breaks loose.

 

Within days Trudy finds a co-worker murdered in the ladies’ room, Cab Number 4 broken into, and her own personal information missing from the office files. It’s all downhill from there for the hapless Trudy. Before it’s over, she is shot, hospitalized, stalked, threatened, and locked in a trunk God knows where. And that’s just scratching the surface of the perils Trudy (“I’m not a hero. I’m a cab driver”) faces in this lively mystery.

 

I really like Trudy. She’s an ordinary woman struggling to support herself and her mutt dog on what she makes as a cab driver. That she is a lesbian is neither a big secret or a big deal. She loves her Harley and her dog, and asks for nothing more out of life than to get by and be left alone.

 

Dispatch to Death is a great get-wrapped-up-in-a-quilt-on-a-chilly-evening book, with a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows on the table beside you.

 

Martha Miller’s writing is crisp, clear, and unmuddled. The story is written in first person, a notoriously difficult technique, but she does it well. Her characters are three-dimensional and real, and the plot is a dizzying series of twists that will keep the reader guessing until the low-key, satisfying conclusion.

 

My only criticisms are few and very minor indeed. I really didn’t need to know that Trudy likes to wear boxer shorts. And the frequent appearance of brand names dropped into the text quickly became distracting.

 

But minor glitches aside, I highly recommend Dispatch to Death to anyone who wants a fast-moving, enjoyable mystery to read. It would also make a darn good TV movie. I see Joan Cusack….

 

I have also read Ms. Miller’s mystery “Nine Nights on the Windy Tree” and her “Tales From the Levee” — the latter peopled with wonderfully eccentric characters done with Miller’s usual flair and grace. I highly recommend all of them.

 

Reviewed by Ruth Sims

Author, “The Phoenix”

 

author’s website: www.marthamiller.net

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