A Wicked Design: A Belinda Lawrence Mystery (Book Five). Brian Kavanagh. Fontaine Press. September 2013. 192 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781925086065.
Belinda Lawrence receives a shocking telephone call from her mother. A former lover and successful architect, Brad Delaney, he had a meeting with Belinda’s fiancé Mark Sallinger the night before Brad was murdered. Belinda, however, has no idea of this meeting. All she knows is Brad was found in a local river, with his hands tied behind his back, and stones on his body to weigh him down. While she clearly had moved on past Brad, she was determined to find out who killed him. Her mother had secret designs that she would eventually marry Brad and thereby stay in Australia where her Mom could eventually share life with grandchildren.
At the funeral Belinda is convinced something is odd about this death. Brad’s brother, a Socialist fanatic, says he’s sad about his death but at the same time says there wasn’t much love lost between them, citing “materialism” as the reason for his dislike of his brother. Then there are other guests who are obviously important politicians. It turns out that Brad was working on a special project for the city’s Parliament House and had found something worth a fortune that was to be part of the new Dome on the building. Now, he’s gone, however, there are many, many people interested in finding out what he found in order to profit from it in various ways.
The treasure Brad found has not only monetary value beyond belief but also is highly symbolic of the party holding power at the time. Belinda’s best friend, Hazel Whitby, is her usual sexy self and uses those romantic ploys to distract doormen and the like while Belinda goes sleuthing. There’s a talkative Major, some antique dealers, a professor and more who all seem innocent with their words but whose body language belies their supposed disinterest in finding this treasure and historical artifact.
Brad is not the only one who will die and even Mark Sallinger comes under the radar as a suspicious “person of interest,” who was determined that Brad would never enter Belinda’s life again beyond that of an acquaintance. No, you can’t figure out “who done it” no matter how you try as Brian Kavanagh knows how to throw wrenches into the plot exactly when one thinks the mystery is about to be solved. It also seems there’s a historical party war going on that is pitting democracy against a more socialist leaning reminiscent of fascist governments ruling before, during and after WWII. Belinda’s life will be seriously threatened before the mystery is solved and the ending is quite shocking and not even close to what the reader thinks will solve the political and criminal mystery!
Each novel by Brian Kavanagh gets better and better, but A Wicked Design… is certainly the best of all his works. Intense, complex plots with unpredictable characters interact so that the reader will have to read this novel in one or two sittings, as it’s very, very hard to put down once it’s started. There’s also a nice touch of history and its symbolic value in government that’s informative and intriguing as well!
All in all - very nicely done, Brian Kavanagh!