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Desert SummerFourth in the series of
Claire Gray mysteries
by Michael Craft

Hardcover published August 2005
St. Martin’s Press, New York
268 pages, ISBN 0-312-33423-0

Claire Gray, a renowned Broadway director who now heads the theater department at Desert Arts College near Palm Springs, California, is looking forward to a quiet summer, rounding out the first year in her new career as an educator. She’s not just lounging by the pool sipping martinis, though. Several mornings a week, she conducts a theater workshop at the college, experimenting with a script that’s under consideration for production next season—the stage version of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

One Friday during class, she is visited by the school’s founder, billionaire D. Glenn Yeats, who invites Claire to attend a party that night. It’s not, however, a typical cocktail party. First, it’s at the home of the computer tycoon himself. And second, the short guest list has been fabricated at the last minute as an excuse for Glenn not to meet privately with his ex-wife Felicia, who has just blown in to town.

Felicia has a bone to pick with the terms of their divorce settlement, and she doesn’t hesitate to vent her bitterness in front of Glenn’s guests that night; she even makes a veiled threat to burn down a house they’ve been tussling over, a modern masterpiece by architect I. T. Dirkman, who is present that evening. Glenn tries to keep the peace, mixing his feisty ex a few drinks. And by morning, Felicia is found dead in her hotel room, the victim of antifreeze poisoning.

Was it murder? Were Glenn’s bartending skills to-die-for? Cheers!

  Author’s comments

Michael Craft My fourth Claire Gray mystery, Desert Summer, ends the chronicle of our heroine’s first full year away from New York, though it does not necessarily end the mysteries she will encounter as she adjusts to her new life in California.

There is, however, a “serial subplot” to the four season-titled novels that deals with Claire’s inability, or reluctance, to consider seriously the possibility of long-term happiness with a mate, a partner—a man—and regular readers of the series should take satisfaction in discovering, with Claire, that her prospects have suddenly improved. Desert Summer ends with this issue not fully resolved, but showing considerable promise. And the target of her affections will doubtless surprise readers as much as it surprises her.

These developments are played out against two unlikely backdrops—the antifreeze poisoning of a billionaire’s ex-wife and a gay wedding—both in the rarefied surroundings of a luxury mountainside hotel. It’s a summer in paradise that would leave lesser women in need of a good vacation.

Critical acclaim

Desert Summer is an enjoyable amateur-sleuth mystery starring a likable protagonist and a strong support cast . . . The tale develops the key players early on so that when the author pulls twists and red herrings, the cast and the audience are fooled. This is one author who knows his craft.”
Harriet Klausner

“A satisfying addition to this new series.”
Library Journal

“A lady of leisure takes a stiff drink sweetened with antifreeze. Claire Gray, Palm Springs' Desert Arts College teacher, investigates . . . solving the case to universal approbation before everybody returns to a hearty dinner.”
Kirkus Reviews

Reading Desert Summer “is like attending an enjoyable play in which you already know the ending . . . leisurely paced, this gracefully written tale focuses on relationships, including those Claire shares with gay friend Grant.”
      —Publishers Weekly

“Michael Craft develops a delightful character in Claire Gray . . . very 'a la Christie.' Desert Summer is an entertaining mystery that I highly recommend.”
Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader Magazine

One of the great things about summer is summer reading, and I just read Desert Summer at the beach house. It's amazing, a really great book.
 —Pattie Daly Caruso, TV10, Palm Springs CA

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