Claire Conrad & Maggie Hill

Created by Melodie Johnson Howe

“If you’ve missed the old Nero Wolfe, try this superb switch as two females replace Nero and Archie.” That’s the recommendation of The Hartford Courant (see? I read ’em all!), and for once, this is a backcover blurb that pretty much nailed it.

The two females in question in that book, The Mother Shadow (1989), are CLAIRE CONRAD, an wealthy and eccentric Los Angeles psychotherapist and private detective, and her mismatched secretary/assistant and biographer, smartass former writer MAGGIE HILL, divorced, thirty-something and going nowhere professionally or personally (her ex, of course, is a cop with the LAPD), who plays Archie to Claire’s Nero.

And Boulton, Claire’s hunky “English” butler/bodyguard, makes three.

But “eccentric” doesn’t quite cover Claire. “Bizarre” might be better. Born with a silver spoon rammed in her maw, she’s a difficult, pampered blue blood, and a demanding and exacting boss, with swank offices in New York (overlooking Park Avenue) and Los Angeles (on the grounds of a closed hotel). She’s brilliant, of course, but she’s got a load of quirks, like only wearing black or white, refusing to ride in anything less than a Bentley, and affecting a walking stick. And she’s vain. Claire is maybe in her fifties, Maggie thinks, but she’s afraid to ask.

One online reviewer sniped that Claire lacks Wolfe’s “cuddliness,” but I thought someone that over-the-top obnoxious was supposed to be funny, and apparently more than a dew folks agreed with me. The duet’s debut, 1989’s The Mother Shadow, was nominated for an Edgar. Fun, witty, stylish.

Melodie Johnson Howe is a former actress and mystery author. For a decade, she worked in movies alongside actors such as Clint Eastwood, Alan Alda, and James Caan, but put Tinsel Town in the rearview in the early 1980s, to pursue her dream of writing mysteries. Besides the two Claire conrad books, she writes about Diana Poole, an aging forty-year-old actress (and amateur sleuth) trying to make a comeback.


  • “Howe has created a wonderful, highly entertaining (and just a touch bizarre) pair of female sleuths.”
    — Library Journal
  • “[A] gem of a mystery . . . with wonderfully vivid characters and a deft plot abounding with twists and turns.”
    — Publishers Weekly
  • “One of the genre’s best short story writers and novelists. . . . More than glamour of setting, what makes Ms. Howe’s work stand out is keenness of insight.”
    — Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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