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Elaine Viets sets latest thriller in wealthy (fictional) St. Louis suburb

Elaine Viets sets latest thriller in wealthy (fictional) St. Louis suburb

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'Death Grip' by Elaine Viets

"Death Grip"

A novel by Elaine Viets

Published by Severn, 208 pages, $28.99

The wealthy St. Louis suburb of Chouteau Forest is known for its beautiful homes and well-kept lawns, but it also is known as a place that guards its secrets. Here, “local robber barons hung onto their money, their grudges, their sins and scandals.”

Death investigator Angela Richman knows all too well the evil that lurks beneath the surface of this upscale enclave, as Elaine Viets illustrates in “Death Grip,” the fifth in this solid series. Angela, who works for the county’s medical examiner, is called to the town’s isolated woods, where the body of high school track star Terri Gibbons — missing for eight months — has been found, along with two other skeletons.

Working with colleagues Detective Jace Budewitz and assistant medical examiner Katie Kelly Stern, Angela believes a note found in the victim’s shoe points to Briggs Bellerive, whose sense of entitlement is matched by the way he uses power and money to derail the investigation. But the tenacious Angela doesn’t give up, even when her job may be in jeopardy.

The likable Angela and fluid plotting combine for a tidy story. In “Death Grip,” money can camouflage secrets, but bad behavior can’t be hidden forever.

While Chouteau Forest is fictional, Viets captures the spirit of several St. Louis suburbs.

Viets, a St. Louis native who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, continues to show that Angela, a stroke survivor and widow, is motivated by her own loss. It’s easy to root for her growing relationship with Officer Christopher Ferretti and be amazed by the heavy workload she carries.

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