Deadly Distrust
by Mary Schaller

"Confusion racked Mark’s brain cells. He couldn’t think straight. He badly needed a hit of something, the symptoms of withdrawal were distracting."

Mayhem, murder, and mushrooms are at the heart of this elaborate thriller. The Amanita ocreata, also known as the Destroying Angel, is white and deadly dangerous. It plays a major role in this twisting and turning tale of people caught in precarious situations, often of their own construction. Fungi, however, eventually take second place when all sorts of grave incidents start happening to good and bad people alike.

A young girl dies from mushroom poisoning. Was it suicide, error, or something sinister? Her brother, a San Francisco police officer, is committed to knowing. As increasing information points to murder, the number of suspects starts to multiply. Could it have been her husband she wanted desperately to divorce? How about others she was seeing, such as the teacher who knew everything there was to know about mushrooms? Or could it be the philandering doctor who might or might not be the father of the baby Gina was secretly carrying? Could the doctor's long-suffering wife be the culprit? Or perhaps the killer might be Gina's roommate, Elly, who just might have been in love with her as well.

Author Schaller paints vivid pictures of the people and places that dominate her tale of San Francisco and its adjoining environs. The city itself becomes a character, housing straights, gays, transvestites, bisexuals, drug users, and drug pushers who often mix and mingle without knowing one another's hidden secrets. Her prose and dialogue can occasionally detail insights that readers have already ascertained. However, this doesn't detract from her well-paced and intricately assembled mystery. Overall, Schaller does a first-rate job of keeping her plot moving forward even as it branches into subplots that provide additional motives for multiple suspects.

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