"A Scarlet Death" By Elaine Viets: Review/Giveaway

Review by Cynthia Chow

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

Angela Richman has seen a lot of weird things since becoming the official death investigator for the wealthy St. Louis community of Chouteau County, but her newest case raises even her eyebrows. In what the press soon calls The Case of the Philandering Philanthropist, 70-year-old Selwyn Skipton has just been found strangled to death by his tie in a bordello-looking apartment. Filled with expensive nude artwork and silk bedsheets, the love nest is the last resting place of the man clothed only with the silk tie and a wool letter A” stapled to his chest. While it’s the medical technician who quickly makes the connection to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Angela and Detective Jace Budewitz are the ones who discover that Selwyn was a sugar daddy using the hookup website DatingDaddies.com” to find young women willing to trade themselves for gifts.” Selwyn’s wife Estelle seems more bothered by the concept of a female death investigator than the death of her husband, with her antiquated viewpoints more concerned about how the scandal will affect her in the community.

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Angela’s mother was once a housekeeper for the richest residents of Chouteau Forest, which grants Angela the insight to seek out the help” in order to find the truth about the closed community. Tracking down Selwyn’s latest sugar babies – one who also happens to have a good-girl twin - takes a sideline when Angela’s boyfriend, patrol officer Chris Ferretti, is shot in the head and implicated in a crime. Having herself recovered from debilitating strokes, Angela knows all too well how life threatening and traumatic a brain injury can be. That she avoided answering his marriage proposal not long before he was shot weighs heavily on her, and Angela wonders if he will ever be able to remember having made it in the first place.

Author Elaine Viets continues to depict the lifestyles of the upper classes and revel in their shenanigans. She modernizes the sugar daddy phenomenon by taking it to the internet, where prospects use it like a dating app. While those willing to become sugar babies are not exactly sympathetic, it’s also easy to see the appeal for women looking for a better life. Just as fascinating are the side cases that Angela investigates as a part of her duties, one of the most tragic being a fatal car wreck that brings her back into the vicinity of the callous and corrupt Detective Ray Greiman. He is also thrilled to be the one to lead the investigation against Chris, having long built a resentment towards Angela for her refusal to cater to the Chouteau bigwigs who pay for Greiman’s favors. 

Angela’s competence and dry wit ensure that she is a compelling lead character, and readers will enjoy following her and her friends through this eighth of the series.  This is an outstanding procedural that depicts Angela’s death investigations while also delving deep into class structures and the behavior of the entitled. Despite the cynicism Angela has developed having watched the elite often literally get away with murder, the tone is kept buoyant through humorous writing and a righteously satisfying ending. Readers should always look forward to the newest book by Elaine Viets, whose observations about the manners and lifestyles of the wealthy deliver delightful and thought-provoking mysteries.

To enter to win a copy of A Scarlet Death(ebook or hardback winner's choice), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "scarlet,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 15, 2024. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. BE SURE TO STATE WHETHER YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! 

You can click here to purchase this book.
Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).
 Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  2. Mary Holshouser
    Love books about the local area (St. Louis). Elaine knows
    it well. thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. Sounds like a great addition to the series. I love Angela.

  4. Elaine's stories are captivating. This one sounds like it will be, too.

  5. Elaine's stories are captivating! This sounds like it will live up to the previous ones in the series.

  6. Sounds like an intriguing mystery. Would love to win a book.


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