Do or Die: A Mali Anderson Mystery

Edwards, Grace F.

Published by Doubleday, 2000
ISBN 10: 0385492480 / ISBN 13: 9780385492485
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Synopsis: Harlem's supersleuth Mali Anderson is back on the case in the fourth installment of Grace Edwards's beautifully rendered and critically acclaimed Mali Anderson mystery series.

All of the characters Edwards's fans love are back. This time Mali and company take to the high seas for a brief trip aboard the QE2. When they return to Harlem, they discover that the singer in Dad's jazz band has been murdered--her throat slit from ear to ear, and her shirtsleeve ripped to expose faded track marks. The girl's father, also a member of Dad's band, is devastated. Out of a sense of duty, responsibility, and loyalty to her father and his grieving friend, Mali sets out to find the murderer and slips in and out of the "three B's" of Harlem--the beauty shops, barbershops, and bars--with her signature grace and grit.

A spectacularly drawn Harlem--the good, the bad, and the ugly--comes vividly to life in Do or Die, which has all the charm and chutzpah Edwards's fans have grown to expect. Readers will take delicious pleasure not only in Mali's struggle to find the culprit before he strikes again; they will cheer her on as she fights for her jaw-droppingly gorgeous (and sensitive) man, Tad Honeywell, when he becomes the target of a sexpot's advances.

Review: Grace Edwards's Mali Anderson series ( If I Should Die, A Toast Before Dying, No Time to Die) takes readers on a veritable walking tour of Harlem's institutions and inhabitants. This time out, Mali, a former cop, strolls off a QE2 jazz cruise and straight into murder. Her jazz musician father's pianist, Ozzie Hendrix, has returned from a gig in Newport to find his daughter Starr, a budding singer trying to recover from a heroin addiction, with her throat slashed. With friends and family devastated, Mali's method of detection is anything but by the book, much to the dismay of her boyfriend, detective Tad Honeywell. Her best informers are a slew of Harlem beauticians:

Bertha, my 20-year friend, owns Bertha's Beauty Salon and is a reliable source of street news, gossip, and any scandal worth repeating. She has been on the same location on Eighth Avenue years before it was renamed for Frederick Douglass, and she doesn't have to poke her head out the door to catch a whisper. It flows in automatically as early as 7 a.m., when the regulars from Miss Laura's luncheonette arrive with breakfast and news hotter than grits.
Rumor has it that Starr's death was a brutal payback for her efforts to distance herself from Short Change, her one-time pimp and supplier. But when Short Change is gunned down and the prints of Travis Morgan, a prominent Harlem businessman, turn up on the knife that killed Starr, respectable and not-so-respectable worlds start colliding--and the clash will have Mali fighting for her life.

Edwards's novels tend to be more successful as social history than as mystery. A jumble of characters and incidents muddies the plot, but the author's carefully rendered portrait of Harlem's streets and language carries an unmistakable glow of authenticity. --Kelly Flynn

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Do or Die: A Mali Anderson Mystery
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Near Fine
Edition: 1st Edition

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