Murder in Hand (Conrad)

Murder in Hand  (Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy, 3)
Celia Conrad, 2012
Barcham Books
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780954623340

This third book in the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy finds Alicia Allen—the half-Italian/half-British London solicitor with such a passion for justice it would make even Portia envious—sleuthing with her adoring cohort and fellow lawyer, Alex Waterford, in this tangled mystery of corruption on both sides of the law that spans England, New York, Sicily and mainland Italy.

When Fabio Angelino shows up in Alicia's office, the Italian American not only asks her to handle the Probate of his mother's English estate, but reveals that someone has been trying to kill him—perhaps the same person responsible for his lawyer father's disappearance in Sicily 16 years ago while working for a New York firm. The Italian police suspect the Mafia, but Fabio’s father’s death remains unsolved. Alicia and Alex have developed a comfortable relationship, and he urges her not to get too involved for her own safety.

However, when Fabio's sister, Guilia, is found callously murdered, Alicia feels compelled to investigate. Her quest takes her from England to Sicily and Italy over beautiful, but sinister, terrain as she finds herself pulled into an underworld where the most dangerous and corrupt criminals are those who hide behind the law.

Alicia’s Italian heritage comes to the surface as she looks for clues hidden in Italian Probate law, culture and Puccini. But in her bid to entrap the killer or killers, has Alicia Allen finally taken on malevolent forces too great, and will this be her last investigation? (From the publisher.)

This is the final book in the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy. A Model Murder (2011) is the first, and Wilful Miurder (2011) is the second.

Author Bio
Where—London, England, UK
Education—J.D., University of London
Currently—lives in West London, England

Celia Conrad is a British author who shares similarities with the heroine of her Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy in her own Anglo-Italian heritage and solicitor experience (aka "lawyer" in the U.S.). Together they share an enthusiasm for crime solving, Shakespeare, All Things Italian and, of course, Pringles. A Model Murder was her debut novel, written at the suggestion of a mentor who encouraged her to write mysteries based on real-life stories she has encountered while working within the law. She followed it with Wilful Murder and Murder in Hand, Books 2 and 3, respectively in the Alicia Allen Investigates series. (From the author.)

Visit the author's website.
Follow Celia on Facebook.

Book Reviews
In this cerebral legal mystery, Celia Conrad pulls her feisty half-Italian London Probate/Estate lawyer heroine deeper into the quagmire world of unscrupulous attorneys, the unfortunates who work with them and their unsuspecting innocent victims. In this third book of the Alicia Allen trilogy, Conrad hits her stride as a bona fide puzzle master. The easy-to-follow plot line keeps readers guessing and pages turning. Great pleasures lie in Conrad's refusal--or perhaps inability--to write for the lowest common denominator of brainpower. Instead she aims for the highest. If you want to roll with Alicia Allen...better bring your A-Game (and some knowledge of Puccini opera wouldn't hurt). Murder in Hand could be enjoyed as a stand-alone book if readers don't mind not knowing the history between the justice-loving attorney and her adoring cohort Alex Waterford, and their mutual love for a potato chip that rhymes with “Tingles."
Dancing in the Experience Lane Book Reviews Blog

Murder in Hand is a book I can recommend for Italophiles, Anglophiles, fans of traditional British mysteries, and fans of Cozy-Murder-Mysteries. Savor the setting details, meanderings, the theories, and the relationships. All true to the genre, along with multiple murders, investigative trails galore, an exciting ending, and a romantic Epilogue. The Alicia Allen Investigates series gives Italophile cozy-fans a look into the world of a young English woman whose life is enriched by her Italian mother's culture, If you have read the first two books in the series, you will enjoy catching up with Alicia's friends and family. If you are new to the series, you will still be able to understand and enjoy Alicia's relationships, especially the interplay and affection with her boyfriend who is Alicia's sounding board.
Italophile Book Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. How much do you feel Alicia’s Italian background and the "importance of family" influence her attitude in her personal dealings with the people she meets?

2. How did you feel about Alicia’s reaction to Fabio’s plight? Could you relate to it or not? Why?

3. What insight does Murder in Hand give you into legal family arrangements?

4. What makes Alicia a strong female protagonist?

5. How did you feel about the introduction of Alicia’s Uncle Vico and his input? Does knowing more about Alicia’s family background influence how you think about her?

6. How did you feel about the development of Alicia’s relationship with Alex and his involvement in the mystery?

7. What do you think about the way Italian opera is used to advance the plot?

8. How do you feel about the way Italian culture and influence are portrayed in the book?

9. What’s your reaction to how Alicia stands up to dominant male lawyers?

10. What do you think about Alicia Allen’s reaction to Olivia’s situation? What, if anything, does it reveal about Alicia as a person?

11. How do you feel about Alicia’s determination to reach the truth whatever the consequences?

12. For readers of Alicia Allen Investigates Books 1 & 2: Would you recommend that readers read the first two books in order to enjoy/follow Alicia’s investigations in Book 3; or did you feel that Book 3 could be a “stand alone” mystery? If yes, why?

13. For readers of Alicia Allen investigates Books 1 & 2: How did you feel about returning characters? Were there characters you would like to have learned more about?

14. How did you feel about how details of the murders in the book were revealed to you?

15. What’s your reaction to the climatic action near the end in terms of dramatic tension and setting? Were you surprised by anything or did you “see it coming”?

16. What, if anything, struck you about the investigation process? Was it difficult or easy to follow? Did it seem realistic or far-fetched? Did you notice any red herrings?

17. Would you like Alicia to return and, if so, how do you envisage a future of crime solving with Alex? What do you think might happen if Alicia gets pregnant after they are married?
(Questions courtesy of the publisher.)

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