The Mirror and the Mask (Jane Lawless Series #17) [NOOK Book]

Overview


Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is at crossroads. The rough economy has put her plans for a third restaurant on hold, and her long distance romance is on the rocks and quite possibly unsalvageable. Unsure of what to do next, she takes her good friend A. J. Nolan up on his standing offer to take her on as a private investigator.

While still in training, her first job seems simple enough. All she had to do is find Annie ...

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The Mirror and the Mask (Jane Lawless Series #17)

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Overview


Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is at crossroads. The rough economy has put her plans for a third restaurant on hold, and her long distance romance is on the rocks and quite possibly unsalvageable. Unsure of what to do next, she takes her good friend A. J. Nolan up on his standing offer to take her on as a private investigator.

While still in training, her first job seems simple enough. All she had to do is find Annie Archer’s stepfather. Jane tracks down a likely match—a man who has made a small fortune in real estate. While she’s happy to close her first case, she finds it hard to reconcile the difference between PI work—finding what people pay you to find—and uncovering the truth, the whole truth, especially when clues in this seemingly simple case point to more threatening family secrets than where Annie’s father has been hiding out.

Ellen Hart’s The Mirror and the Mask is another engrossing mystery filled with the deceit and psychological intrigue that fans have come to expect from this Lambda and Minnesota Book Award--winning author.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lonely Jane Lawless never seems to catch a break in the love department, as shown by Hart's twisty 17th whodunit to feature the Minneapolis restaurateur and part-time PI (after 2008's Sweet Poison). Jane gives a temporary job to bartender Annie Andrews, who's come from Colorado in search of her stepfather, John Archer, whom Annie blames for her mother's death years before. Jane, who's attracted to the bisexual Annie, discovers that John has changed his name to Jack Bowman, who owns DreamScape Builders in the Twin Cities. The mystery deepens after Susan, Jack's second wife, is found murdered by a blow to the head by Susan's depressed son, Curt, who's also attracted to Annie. Jane and her best friend, Cordelia Thorne, begin investigating Annie's troubled past. As Annie's search for answers hurtles to a close, the tragic deceptions concocted by John/Jack explode in a grand finale with disturbing consequences. (Nov.)
Library Journal
When Annie Archer turns up at Minneapolis's Xanadu Club, its owner, lesbian restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless (Sweet Poison), offers her a job and takes on the task of finding Annie's long-missing father. VERDICT The Lambda Literary Award- and Minnesota Book Award-winning author of 16 Jane Lawless mysteries knows how to spin a tale full of complex plot lines, fast-paced action, and characters skilled in deception. Fans of the Lawless series and readers who enjoy gay/lesbian mysteries will not be disappointed.
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran sleuth Jane Lawless (Sweet Poison, 2008, etc.) tries to wrap up her first case as an actual PI, even as she wonders if she's getting too involved for her own good. Drifter Annie Archer shows up at the Xanadu Club, one of the two restaurants Jane owns, looking for both a job and her long-lost stepfather. Apparently he made fast tracks right after Annie's mother died, and she hasn't seen or heard from him since. Jane quickly discovers that Annie isn't telling the whole truth about her past or her motivations for reuniting with her stepfather. Meanwhile, Susan Bowman, who's peripherally and unfortunately related to the case, is murdered in her home. Jane fears for Annie, who's recently taken up with Susan's emotionally fragile son Curt. If she can figure out the secrets of Annie's past, Jane knows she can help protect the young woman-something she'd like to do more than she'd care to admit. Considering that her ex won't even return her calls, she figures that it's about time she felt that spark for someone, and Annie has some convenient lesbian tendencies that draw her to Jane as well. While all this goes on, Jane's usual sidekick Cordelia is preoccupied pining for her niece Hattie, whose histrionic mother has recently retaken custody. Romance scenes read like outtakes from a Harlequin bodice-ripper in this blast from Jane's past, whose light-fare pleasures will depend on readers' investment in the cast.
From the Publisher
Praise for Ellen Hart

“Ellen Hart, one of Minnesota’s bestselling mystery writers, weaves a net of complex relationships.… Sweet Poison is as much a psychological thriller about unrequited love as a mystery.”

—-St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sweet Poison

“Juicy…Hart fans will enjoy the many twists, both personal and criminal.”

—-Publishers Weekly on Sweet Poison

“A solidly satisfying sixteenth title in this popular lesbian murder-mystery series…as she plumbs deeper into the convoluted hearts and minds of her fascinating characters.”

—-Booklist on Sweet Poison

“Hart is at the top of her game.”

—-Curve Magazine on The Mortal Groove

“Hart masterfully whips these intrigues together with her sleuths’ interesting nonmystery lives…to add a fine sauce to a hearty, Minneapolis-flavored mystery dish.”

—-Rocky Mountain News on The Iron Girl

“Jane Lawless and her trusty sidekick, Cordelia Thorn, are the most refreshing, entertaining, and cerebrally stimulating duo since Rex Stout’s unbeatable combo of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.”

—-Baltimore Alternative

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429988735
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/10/2009
  • Series: Jane Lawless Series , #17
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 356,540
  • File size: 302 KB

Meet the Author


ELLEN HART, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner. The author of sixteen previous mysteries featuring Jane Lawless, she lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Read an Excerpt


Traverse City, Michigan
Summer 1990 For the third time in less than ten minutes, Annie’s mom rushed into the bathroom to redo her makeup. It was definitely weird be­havior. Her mom had a routine that never varied. She was the assis­tant manager of one of the big resorts near Traverse City and always looked perfect when she left for work late in the afternoons. Today was her day off, so Annie figured something was up. On days like this, her mom usually dressed pretty grungy. Sweats. Tank tops. Old T-shirts. But this afternoon, she was so incredibly wired, rocketing back and forth between the bathroom and the bedroom, that Annie wasn’t even sure her mom knew she’d come back from the mall.
Annie Andrews was thirteen. She and her mom lived in an apartment complex not too far from the Miller Creek Nature Pre­serve, which was a way cool place with lots of great walking paths. This was the best place they’d ever lived. There was a workout room, a playground, and even a putting green. Annie had taken up putting after her mom bought her a used putter for her birthday. If she did say so herself, she was getting pretty good at it.
But best of all, the apartment was close to the Grand Traverse Mall, where Annie met her friends almost every day during the sum­mer. Her mom had always worked resorts, starting with her first job as a  house keeper at the Boardwalk Plaza in Rehoboth Beach, the town where Annie was born. Over time, she’d moved up the ladder all the way to management. After Annie’s dad died of cancer—when she was five—they’d lived in a  whole bunch of places. One time, Annie attended three different schools in a single year. But that was a while ago. Annie’s mom promised that they  wouldn’t have to move again for a long time, which was good because Annie adored her cur­rent school. She was working on her first boyfriend and  couldn’t bear the thought of ever leaving.
Making strangling noises, Annie’s mom wiggled into a tight pair of white jeans, examined herself in the full-length mirror in her bed­room, pressed a hand to her stomach, and let her shoulders droop. “Ugh.”
“What’s up?” asked Annie from the doorway.
Her mom jumped. “Honey, you scared me. I didn’t know you  were back.”
“Figured.”
Pulling on a pink lace camisole, she stood with one hand on her hip, nervously turning one side, then the other, to the mirror. “I got a call while you  were gone.”
“Yeah?”
“There’s someone—a man—coming over in a few minutes. He’s . . .” She hesitated, easing down on her bed.
“He’s what?”
“Well, actually, he’s somebody I met a long time ago.  We’ve been writing each other for years.”
“You have? How come you never said anything about it?”
“This is kind of hard to explain, honey. He’s . . . been . . . in prison.”
Annie arched her eyebrows.
“Nothing violent. He just made some bad decisions and ended up in jail.”
Annie didn’t respond, mainly because she had no idea what to say.
“I . . . care about him a lot,” continued her mother, gnawing at a fingernail. “His name is John. Johnny Archer.”
“Uh-huh.” It was a dumb response, but it was all Annie could manage.
“See, I knew he was getting out of prison this month, but he never told me the exact date. And now he’s  here. In town. He wants to see me. And you, too.”
“You said you care about him. Does that mean you, like, love him?”
Her mom gazed down at her hands. She’d taken off her wedding band years ago and replaced it with a red garnet set in silver. Annie thought her mom had bought it, but now she wondered if this Archer guy had given it to her. “Yes, honey, I do.”
“Does that mean you want to marry him?”
“Honestly, I  haven’t thought that far ahead.”
“If you do marry him, do I have to change my last name?”
“Oh, honey, I’d never make you do something like that, not against your will. We’ll have a lot of time to talk. Nothing’s going to happen right away.”
The phone rang.
“That must be him,” said Annie’s mom, leaping up and dashing past her into the kitchen. “Yes?” she said, snatching the receiver off the wall, sounding breathless, excited. “You’re  here. I’ll buzz you in. We’re on the east end of the complex. Third floor. Turn right when you get off  the elevator.” She listened for a few seconds. “Yeah, she’s here.” Turning her back away from the door, she whispered, “Me, too. Fingers crossed.”
Annie walked into the kitchen. She had big ears and had picked up everything her mother had said, but she  wasn’t quite sure what it all meant.
Her mom hung up the phone. Slowly, she turned, her face flushed, her eyes darting nervously. “You’re gonna love him, I know you will.”
“Where does he live now?”
“Well, ah, when he was a kid, his family lived all over.”
“But what about now?”
“Like I said, he just got out of prison.”
“Is he gonna stay with us?”
“Would that be such a bad thing?”
Annie truly didn’t know. But she had a suspicious feeling that it would. She and her mom  were a team. They didn’t need anyone else to make them happy. Her mom had never dated after Annie’s dad died. Annie asked her about it once. Her mom said she was too busy earning a living to worry about romance.
Annie was still deciding what to say when the doorbell rang.
“How do I look?” asked her mom, searching Annie’s face for reas­surance.
“Okay, I guess.”
She rushed to the door.
Out in the hall stood a dark- haired guy wearing a red-and-blue plaid shirt and jeans. He held a beat-up suitcase and a paper sack.
“Mandy?” he said, letting the suitcase drop. He whipped off his sun­glasses. “God, you  haven’t changed a bit.” He grabbed her and squeezed her tight, his eyes closed. He opened them while they  were still hug­ging and looked at Annie. And then he winked.
Annie frowned. The wink made her feel weird.
Tugging at Johnny’s arm, her mom led him into the living room, where they all sat down, Johnny and her mom on the couch, and Annie in a chair across the room.
“Johnny, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Annie.”
Johnny nodded, grinned. That’s when Annie decided he was sort of good-looking. His skin was really pale, and he  wasn’t much taller than her mom, but he was built. And he had twinkly eyes and a smile that promised something fun.
“Hey,” said Johnny, reaching around behind him for the brown paper sack. “I brought you both a present.”
“You didn’t need to do that,” said Annie’s mother, although she looked pretty darn happy about it.
“Here,” he said, handing her a small box.
Her mom acted a lot like a dog they’d once had. When you said “treat,” he wagged his tail so hard that his entire body shook. That’s what Annie’s mom looked like. She was vibrating. Annie  wasn’t into obvious emotion and thought the reaction was pathetic. Old people could be so uncool.
When her mom opened the gift, her eyes lit up. She held up a tiny bottle of perfume so Annie could see it. Unscrewing the cap, she sniffed. “It’s wonderful. I love it.”
“So do I,” said Johnny, one eyebrow raised at her, another grin spreading across his face. “And for you, Annie.” He pulled a paper­back out of the sack and tossed it across to her. “Do you like novels?”
“Sometimes,” she said nonchalantly, one leg draped over the other. He wasn’t about to get some stupid overreaction out of her.
“What’s the title?” asked her mom.
“Catcher in the Rye,” said Johnny.
Her mom’s smile dimmed. “You think that’s an okay story for a thirteen- year- old girl?”
Johnny shrugged. “I read it when I was thirteen. It was my favor­ite book for years.”
Sensing that there might be something off -limits about the novel, Annie got up. “Think I’ll go down and sit by the putting green.”
“Honey, I’m not sure—”
“Oh, let her have some fun,” said Johnny.
Annie had just opened the front door when Johnny added, “Take your time. Your mom and me, we’ll just be up  here getting reac­quainted. And hey, I thought I’d take you both out for pizza later. That sound good to you?”
“Johnny?” said her mother. “Can you afford that? I could make us something  here.”
“Hell, woman, if I  can’t afford to take my two favorite ladies out to dinner, they might as well shoot me right now.”
Favorite ladies, thought Annie. Pathetic beyond belief. But she glanced back at him because the defiance in his voice connected with some­thing inside her. For the first time since his name had been brought up, she found herself smiling.
Present Day As Jane saw it, there  were several possibilities. For one, she would turn forty-five in the fall. Her mind froze as she mentally tiptoed around the numbers. It  wasn’t all that long ago that she thought thirty- five was the departure lounge. Now sixty was only fifteen years away. Not much time. But time, as she’d learned, was a malleable concept. It often depended on where you  were standing.
At the moment, she was standing in the dry-storage room at the Xanadu Club, a restaurant she owned in the Uptown area of south Minneapolis. A pipe had burst, flooding the room with several inches of water. Jane had planned to spend the day at her other restaurant, the Lyme  House, but just as the lunch rush began, she got a call from Henry Ingram, her maintenance man, with the bad news. She arrived shortly after one and found him in the basement hallway, dragging a wet/dry vac toward the storage room door.
“It stinks,” she said, waving the foul air away from her face.
The old guy flipped on the light to reveal the disaster.
Crouching down, Jane touched the flooring. “This will all have to come out.” She looked up at the metal storage racks filled with canned and dry goods. “I’ll call Jimmy Mason and get someone out  here as fast as possible to rip it out. Think we’ll have problems with the sub­fl oor?”
“Not sure there is one.”
“What about the pipe?”
“I been at ’er since eleven. We had some leakage last week. I called our usual plumbing guy, but he made a mess of it. This time I did it myself.”
“We need to empty the shelves right away.”
“I’ve already made a few calls. George and Terrance should be  here shortly.”
George Anderson and Terrance Keegen  were two of Jane’s wait­ers. “That’s all you could find?”
“On such short notice.”
Jane was glad she’d worn jeans and an old sweatshirt because she was probably going to be part of the work crew. As usual, disasters never picked a good time. She had two meetings this afternoon that might have to be canceled.
She took the measure of the loss one more time. “What a freakin’ mess.”
“That about covers it.”
There  were other possibilities, of course, that added to her cur­rent malaise. It might not be her looming birthday that had pushed her toward the edge; it might be a full- blown midlife crisis. What­ever the cause, what used to get her up in the mornings and fuel the rest of her days simply didn’t work anymore.
Jane had spent the last few months examining her life and finding it wanting. Part of her current predicament was a kind of dishar­monic convergence. She owned two popular restaurants in Minne­apolis and had recently begun to develop a third. Due to some financial problems caused by the tanking economy, those plans had been put on hold. Instead of pushing harder, trying to work through the problems, she’d simply stopped and taken some time to look around. What she saw was a deep crack in what had always been her limitless career ambition.
The other half of the disharmonic convergence was a messy ro­mantic breakup last November that had left her feeling uncharacter­istically confused, sluggish, and depressed. Jane and her partner of two years, Kenzie Mulroy, had parted ways. Jane wanted to work things out, but Kenzie had thrown in the towel with such force that no amount of apologies or promises to change made a dent in Ken­zie’s resolve. And yet Jane didn’t want to let go. There had to be a way to make this long-distance relationship work. One of Kenzie’s major objections was that Jane was too busy, that she never made enough time in her life for Kenzie. It was an arrow that hit the mark. Jane  couldn’t argue the facts away. And so, because the breakup had been mostly her fault, she’d been fighting with a sense of personal failure that she  couldn’t seem to shake. Even more troubling was the brutal suspicion that, in all her efforts to live the good life, she had somehow taken a wrong turn.
“Have you had lunch?” asked Jane.
“I’m full up,” said Henry.
Jane had skipped breakfast. If she was going to haul things around all afternoon, she had to put some fuel in her tank. “I need to grab something to eat and then I’ll be back.”
“Nothin’ in this room is goin’ anywhere without help,” said Henry, switching on the wet/dry vac.
Jane spent the next few minutes talking to her executive chef in the kitchen, all the while eyeing the daily specials. Before she left, she dished herself up a bowl of the minestrone she loved so much, along with a couple of slices of bread. By the time she reached the Speakeasy at the front of the  house, her stomach was growling. She helped herself to a cup of coffee and was about to sit down at the far end of the bar, when one of the bartenders got her attention.
“There’s a woman  here who wants to talk to the manager about a job.”
“Fine,” she said, easing onto a stool. “Have her talk to Len.”
“He  wasn’t feeling well, so he ran over to Snyders to buy some ibuprofen.”
“Don’t we have any  here?”
“Guess not.”
“Okay, then have her fill out an application and give it to Len when he gets back.”
“Where would I find the applications?”
She should have stayed in bed and hidden under the covers. “Where is she?”
He nodded toward the other end of the room.
Standing by the cash register was a woman wearing an army green wool sweater, brown cargo pants, and hiking boots, with a sheepskin jacket slung over one shoulder. She was tall, blond, and fashion model pretty.
“I’ll take care of it,” said Jane, hiding her groan. Leaving her stool with a longing backward glance, she introduced herself to the woman. “I’m the owner.”
“Oh, great. I’m Annie Archer.”
“You’re looking for a job?”
“Just something temporary. I need to make some money, but I won’t be in town long.”
Jane invited her back to end of the counter, where her soup was rapidly cooling. “Something to eat?”
“No, I’m fine. I’d be willing to do just about anything.  Excerpted from The Mirror and the Mask by Ellen Hart.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Hart.
Published in November 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Jane goes it alone as she investigates an almost two-decade old cold case

    In Minneapolis, restaurateur Jane Lawless, owner of the Lyme House restaurant and the Xanadu Club, delays her plans for opening a third establishment due to the economy. Instead she accepts a job as a professional private investor working for her friend and sleuth A.J. Nolan. She also hires bartender Annie Archer to work at her Xanadu Club.

    Annie explains to her new boss that she left Steamboat Springs, Colorado in search of her stepfather who vanished soon after her mom died in 1990 in Traverse City, Michigan. She asks Jane to find him, which Jane agrees to do, but becomes a tad upset to realize her client-employee omitted key facts and she wonders why. Meanwhile, Northland Realty VP Susan Bowman is murdered at the home she shares with her spouse Jack and her two children medical school student Curt and high school senior Sunny. As Jane digs, she increasingly fears for Annie's life and anyone in her sphere especially Curt because she connects the two points Annie and Susan.

    Jane goes it alone as she investigates the almost two-decade old cold case of the disappearing stepfather. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Annie meets Jane while the two prime romantic relationships, Annie with Jane and Annie with Curt complicate a relatively simple plot. Although the prime investigation is somewhat limited, fans will enjoy the interactions between a strong cast who make for a fun Minneapolis mystery.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    MYSTERY AND MAYHEM IN MINNEAPOLIS

    With this, the 17th in Ellen Hart's highly successful Jane Lawless mystery series, we first meet 13-year-old Annie Andrews who lives in Traverse City, Michigan with her resort manager mom. Annie was happy, loved her school, and thought she and her mom were all that was needed after Annie's dad died. Apparently, mom didn't feel quite the same way because she's been corresponding with Johnny Archer, a prisoner who has just been released and is about to knock on their apartment door.

    Flash forward to the present where we find our heroine/sleuth Jane in one of her Minneapolis restaurants, the Xanadu Club, where a pipe had burst causing a minor but nonetheless wet flood. Further, she's on the brink of 45 and there had been "a messy romantic breakup last November that had left her feeling uncharacteristically confused, sluggish, and depressed." Need we mention that she put opening another restaurant on hold due to the current economy?

    Jane really doesn't need any more challenges but then in walks a full grown Annie Andrews looking for work, she was "tall, blond, and fashion model pretty." Jane puts Annie to work and soon agrees to help Annie find her stepfather, yep, the same Johnny Archer. Annie hasn't seen him since her mom's funeral some 12 years before.

    For help in tracking down Archer Jane had turned to ex-cop Nolan which caused her overly dramatic best friend, Cordelia, to have a hissy fit. (Hart wisely often uses Cordelia for comic relief.) Nonetheless, it's not long before a hunt for a person turns into a murder.

    Enjoy!

    - Gail Cooke

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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