The Scent of Murder
Jazz Ramsey #1
By Kylie Logan
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
First in a new series from national bestselling author Kylie Logan, The Scent of Murder is a riveting mystery following Jazz Ramsey as she trains cadaver dogs.
The way Jazz Ramsey figures it, life is pretty good. She’s thirty-five years old and owns her own home in one of Cleveland’s most diverse, artsy, and interesting neighborhoods. She has a job she likes as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school, and a volunteer interest she’s passionate about—Jazz is a cadaver dog handler.
Jazz is working with Luther, a cadaver dog in training. Luther is still learning cadaver work, so Jazz is putting him through his paces at an abandoned building that will soon be turned into pricey condos. When Luther signals a find, Jazz is stunned to see the body of a young woman who is dressed in black and wearing the kind of make-up and jewelry that Jazz used to see on the Goth kids back in high school.
She’s even more shocked when she realizes that beneath the tattoos and the piercings and all that pale make up is a familiar face.
The lead detective on the case is an old lover, and the murdered woman is an old student. Jazz finds herself sucked into the case, obsessed with learning the truth.
This is a very enjoyable first in a new series about Jazz Ramsey, her work with special-trained dogs, and work to find the murderer of a promising young student who left her school a couple years earlier. Jazz and Florie, the young woman she found murdered, are excellent characters who this reader could appreciate. The mystery is challenging, with a couple perfect red herrings and enough suspects to keep anyone busy.
Jazz Ramsey is a three-dimensional character who is easy to empathize with. Her father, a fire chief, her best friend, her hero, died about a year ago in an arson fire. She has worked as an administrative assistant for Sister Eileen at St. Catherine’s, a girls’ school in Cleveland, and enjoys what she does. In addition, in the tradition of her father, she is a handler for special dogs. This includes Manny, the dog of her heart she lost to lymphoma the same week her father died. She has not had another dog yet, but trains others. In this series debut we meet Luther, who she has been training as a human remains detection dog.
Jazz took Luther out one evening to an old building that was being renovated into condos to do some additional training. She had tucked the training aid inside the building earlier, and now waits for Luther to find it. Unfortunately, he finds a body that had nothing to do with the training aid. Then Jazz recognizes who it is, despite the bizarre clothing and makeup. Florie had been a scholarship student at St. Catherine’s, a promising young artist who had a scholarship at North Coast School of Photography and Design. Florie looked very different from the young woman she knew; she was dressed and made up in goth style.
Jazz’ ex-boyfriend Nick is the homicide detective on the case. Thankfully she only has to see him briefly as the building supervisor could vouch for what time she had the building key from him. Nick had actually asked whether there had been any evidence at the scene she might have removed before the police arrived! Nick (and his boss) knew how loyal Jazz was to St. Catherine’s and its students, so the question had to be asked.
Jazz wanted to know what happened to the lovely young woman with the promising career as a photographer and began to ask questions. She learned more than she wanted to know in some ways, not enough in others. As she searched, every bit as intent as she would be when training cadaver dogs, she found where Florie worked. Where she lived. The students and teachers who knew her, and the dark side of how Florie was able to get money to meet her rent. It was a labyrinthine path, putting Jazz herself in harm’s way.
In the meantime, life continued around her. Jazz’ mother has a surprise announcement, as does one of her brothers, Owen. Nick wants to know if they can start dating again, slowly, and see if they can work through what didn’t go well before.
The characters are well defined with background information and through realistic conversations and activities. I like Jazz and came to understand how important Florie became to her. Jazz’ family, Florie’s parents, and the people we meet at St. Catherine’s become almost real people as we see a fuller picture of Florie’s life. The primary characters are easy to be invested in and look forward to seeing them in the future.
The plot is intricately woven around historical neighborhoods, very likable people, and a compelling mystery. It drew me in at the beginning and kept my attention throughout. While I would have liked to see more work with the special working dogs, I think the perfect groundwork is laid for the future of Jazz and her commitment to them. While I did have an idea who the real killer was, the full motive was a surprise. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a well-written challenging mystery with appealing characters.