Pride v. Prejudice (Claire Malloy Mystery #20) Review
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Many people see a summons to report for jury duty as a nuisance. Some will go out of their way to keep themselves from serving. But in Pride v. Prejudice, the 20th Claire Malloy Mystery by author Joan Hess, an amateur sleuth’s jury duty dismissal drives her to prove the defendant’s innocence.

The story begins when book store owner Claire Malloy is dismissed from jury duty in the most humiliating way by a prosecutor who’s known for steamrolling his way through cases—especially where women and minorities are involved. Outraged and determined to get her revenge, Claire decides to take on the case of the defendant, Sarah Swift, who’s accused of murdering her husband. But while Sarah insists she’s innocent, the evidence is stacked up against her. And Claire has just a few days to turn the case around—all while planning a visit from her high-society mother-in-law.

Pride v. Prejudice is a jam-packed whodunit, with crimes, cover-ups, and secrets layered on top of each other. As Claire continues on her holiday weekend investigation, racing from one lead to another, the story gets more and more complicated—and more and more cluttered. She covers a whole lot of ground—so much so that it seems unlikely that she’d be able to do it all in just a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the story is also populated with no-nonsense characters—especially women who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Claire refuses to be insulted, threatened, or pushed around—and she continues her investigation, no matter how dangerous and time-consuming it may be. Sarah is gruff and straightforward, offering the plain truth even though it may hurt her case. But, eventually, those strong characters lose their appeal. You might think that, as both a mother and the wife of the deputy police chief, Claire would be strong yet sensible. Instead, she’s increasingly stubborn—and the fact that she simply leaves her family for the long weekend while putting herself and those who care about her in danger makes her seem reckless and irresponsible. And, at the same time, Sarah’s hostility toward those who are trying to help her will make readers want to give up and walk away.

These could have been likable characters—and Claire has been a likable sleuth in the past. But they’re pushed too far, forced to fight their way through a story that’s overstuffed and drawn-out (right up until the conclusion, which feels strangely rushed). And that makes for an unexpectedly wearying read.

Pride v. Prejudice is definitely full of surprises—but it’s a little too full. Even fans of the series will find that it’s missing some of the charm of earlier books. And if you’re new to Hess’s Claire Malloy Mysteries, it’s best to start elsewhere in the series.

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