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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

A Second Helping of Murder (Comfort Food Mystery, #2)

A Second Helping of Murder - Christine Wenger

I understand publishing companies big and small are struggling with the changes going on in the book world, but I have to ask: did Penguin lay off all their editors?  My last three Penguin reads (not all from the same division; this one is Obsidian) have had pretty big story holes or inconsistencies.

 

A Second Helping of Murder is the latest in a string of badly put together books for me (plus, not great writing anyway).  I seem to be on a roll and sadly I don't think I have all that keen an eye for this stuff.

 

I'll start with the holes, since those are what I'm complaining most about.  

 

The scene for the first one is in a cafe owned by Laura, an acquaintance/competitor of Trixie's (the MC).  Trixie and Ty (sheriff investigator/rom. interest) are sitting at a table with Laura and her mother and Trixie and Laura have just finished an uncomfortable moment, with Ty trying to change the subject, when Laura's father walks into the cafe.  There's a few paragraphs of chat between Ty, Trixie, and Laura's parents and then her father leaves.  "As he left, Laura appeared.  'Was that daddy I saw leave?'"  At no time in that whole cafe scene did Laura ever leave the table to be able to walk back in!

 

The second mistake is at least separated by quite a few pages, scenes, and time.  But it still jumped out and smacked me when I read it, so how it slipped through the process is anybody's guess.  The setup:  Trixie needs a busboy, and Ty asks her to hire on a kid (Ray) that has gotten himself into some trouble with the law.  She likes Ray, hires him, and then has to appear in court to testify that she will keep him employed as a condition of his case adjudication.  Afterward, "Mr. and Mrs. Meyerson came over and introduced themselves.", inviting everyone back to their house, including his girlfriend (special mention is made of her appearance and the fact that she's holding a cake in the courtroom) for a celebratory lunch.  Everyone goes, spends the afternoon eating, Trixie (as narrator) comments on the cake and a good time is had by all.

 

Jump ahead to a Dance/Bonfire Trixie is planning for the community and Ray is helping her with planning/setup:

 

Trixie: "The DanceFest is about to kick off."

Ray: "I know.  My parents and girlfriend are coming."

Trixie: "Great. You'll have to introduce me."

 

Really?  Apparently Trixie managed to completely forget the entire afternoon she spent at Ray's house, with his parents and his girlfriend, eating their food.  

 

So, was the story itself any good?  Well, no, not really.  I wanted to like it.  For some reason I like the chemistry between the characters; overall it's a rather feel-good atmosphere the author has created.  But Trixie - I spend my time veering between really liking Trixie and her attitude and thinking she's a narcissistic idiot, sadly, mostly the latter.  There's no subtlety here; Trixie is very clear that she is better than Ty and the police at investigating crimes.  She has no faith that anyone beside herself is capable of finding the murderer and says so in so many words over and over again.  She's repeatedly losing her temper because Ty won't share confidential information about the investigation with her and she really doesn't seem to understand why.

 

The plot felt transparent to me:  I knew exactly who the murderer was, and their motive, in the first scene in which they appear.  The author did too good a job establishing the character's character (heh) only to have them suddenly act contrarily in the scene.  It felt like a dead giveaway.

 

Add to all of this writing that was far, far too descriptive:  blow-by-blow accounts of what anyone in the diner ordered at any given time that Trixie was cooking went beyond establishing a colourful setting and went straight into monotony.  I'm not going to bother talking about the TSTL moments, as they tie directly into her narcissistic "I know better" attitude.

 

I usually stick to a "third strike out" rule of thumb with series, but I just don't think I can go a third book here.  It's disappointing; the author has a good concept and it's clear she's capable of creating likeable characters but it's also clear her idea of a good cozy mystery is very different from mine.  Fair enough - but get a better editor.