Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Girl in the Empty Dress by Lise McClendon - #review

Merle Bennett is turning fifty, and her four sisters are helping her celebrate by going to France on a walking tour of the Dordogne. But one sister invites along a law colleague whose annoying ways upset what Merle had hoped would be just 'wine, women, and walking.' When Gillian Sargent, the sixth wheel, finds an injured dog beside the road the idyllic summer vacation takes a dark and dangerous turn. Why is the dog special? Who is after her? And what will they do to get the dog back?

Truffles, wine, romance, and intrigue in the heart of France.

All five Bennett sisters are lawyers. One is writing a blog about their trip, baring family details. As the intrigue heats up, one of Merle's boyfriends shows up from New York while her French boyfriend arrives unexpectedly. The delicate karma of sisterhood is rife with bickering, tears, and French law as the questions about Gillian Sargent pile up. Who exactly is she? What is she hiding? And where the hell has she gone with the dog?

Do you love women's suspense? Are you a not-so-secret lover of all things French? Come along on a trip to France with the Bennett sisters.



This is my first experience with a Lise McClendon book.  It will not be my last.  'Empty Dress' is the 2nd of seven "Bennett Sisters Mysteries".

I do not have any sisters, so missed out on that best friend girl talk, as well as the aggravation that goes along with having female siblings.  One of the sisters brings along a co-worker (Gillian) who seems to have little to no social life.  Understandably the other sisters are a little put out that a 'non-sister' has joined what is supposed to be their time to reconnect.  And Gillian?  She does nothing to change their opinion.  She is cold, standoffish and disapproves of most people and things, other than herself.

Merle has her vacation 'ami' (boyfriend) in this little village in France, at least when he's in town and not working.  But that's ok (?) because her on-again, off-again from New York shows up out of the blue.  (That bit of tension is delicious, btw.) And she's kept plenty busy after Mr. NY is arrested for assault on a local priest.  The only lawyer in town is the former mayor, whom Merle got dismissed in disgrace after a previous investigation.  So yeah, he's a lawyer, but does he have his client's best interests at heart?

And then there's the dog.  The sisters + 1 find an injured dog by the side of the road during a walk in the country.  Unbeknownst to them, it was stolen by force from an elderly couple.  It turns out the dog is a truffle snuffler and is quite valuable. 

I don't know what the French expression is for "15-bean soup", but there are a lot of threads and sub-plots running through the story.  But, like the soup, the story works, and quite well.  And I did love 'revisiting' France, the setting and general tone of the story seemed quite authentic.  (No, I haven't had the pleasure of actually visiting there myself, but I did take 7 years of French in school.)

I was a bit confused at the choice of title.  A little bit of an oblique reference, IMO, but hey, I read-vesting in the story, not just the title.

There are six more books in the Bennett Sister Mysteries, and I am looking forward delving into, well, all of them, eventually.  'Empty Dress' is an engaging read, almost like being on vacation oneself, especially if you're in the habit of having bad guys stalk you and try end your holiday suddenly, with extreme prejudice.  Nice bit of tension in the thriller aspects of the book.

These are definitely worth your investments of time and money.



Lise McClendon is a fiction writer living in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. She has been a film reviewer, a film maker, a journalism professor, and a PR flack. Since her first novel, The Bluejay Shaman, in 1994, she has served on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers/North America, as well as on faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference where each year she critiques, speaks, and learns from writers new and old. 

(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for free from Amazon, having been notified by one of the following:  BookBub, Robin's Reads, Freebooksy, eBooksoda, or other similar deal-finding services.  I was under no obligation to review, but that's kind of what I do, so here we are. :D)

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