Book Reviews: Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations by Simon Brett and Desperate for Death by Judy Alter

Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations
A Mrs Pargeter Mystery #8
Simon Brett
Crème de la Crime/Severn House, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-78029-092-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It is her characteristic generosity rather than her love of animals that finds Mrs Pargeter supporting her friend, Jasmine Angold, at a charity reception for PhiliPussies, whose worthy aim is to rehabilitate stray cats from the Greek island of Atmos into caring English homes. But the evening is to have unexpected consequences. At the event, Mrs P is taken aback to meet a woman who claims to be the sister of her late husband, the much-missed Mr Pargeter.

This surprising encounter leads to unwelcome digging into past secrets, the discovery of a body in Epping Forest, an eventful trip to Greece – and unexpected danger for Mrs Pargeter. In the course of her investigations, she learns the true nature of charity and the dubious skills by which Public Relations can make evil look good.

The Mrs Pargeter series is beguiling and delightful and this particular installment is no exception. Once again, the very wealthy and very kind widow finds herself in the midst of a puzzling crime and perhaps more.

Mrs Pargeter is always ready to help worthy causes with her money and her time but the latest, a cat rescue program, doesn’t really speak to her as she’s not particularly fond of cats. She agrees to go to a fundraiser because it’s important to her friend, Jasmine Angold, and Mrs Pargeter is all for supporting friends and those who are good to her, people such as Gary, her driver-on-call, and a security expert, Parvez. She found both in her late husband’s little black book full of experts in all sorts of activities. These experts were all connected in one way or another to her husband’s, er, illegal enterprises and while Mrs Pargeter would just as soon not know anything about said enterprises (to the point of not allowing anyone to mention them), she certainly appreciates the resulting wealth and the contents of the little black book.

When a very expensive necklace disappears from the charity auction, Mrs Pargeter is intrigued but even more so by the out-of-the-blue appearance of Rochelle Brighouse, a sister-in-law she never knew existed. Now, she has two mysteries to look into, the theft and this rather unpleasant woman, and she begins with a few questions to Gary and Parvez but is stymied by their surprising unwillingness to talk.

When Rochelle makes her agenda known and Mrs Pargeter realizes her husband’s reputation is at stake, she’s mobilized to do something about it. Add to that a murder connected to the cat rescue and our intrepid sleuth is soon doing what she does best.

 Mrs Pargeter is a woman wedded to fighting for good and against evil and this crime caper is as entertaining and full of dry humor as one could wish despite a bit of silliness (it’s puzzling why Brits would feel compelled to rescue cats from Greece when there are plenty of needy felines at home). She also is an unusual sleuth with her vast wealth and her ability to call on some of her husband’s very capable associates with their particular talents. All in all, it’s really easy to be charmed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Desperate for Death
A Kelly O’Connell Mystery #6
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-9960131-7-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Just when Kelly’s life has calmed, she faces yet another of life’s puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don’t fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizzare “accidents” occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can’t make the pieces fit. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.

Most of the time in a cozy, I get irritated with the love interest who’s a cop and he demands that his lady, our amateur sleuth, stay out of his business. This time, I’m irritated because Mike, the cop in question, blows off Kelly’s suggestion that the fire in her unoccupied guest house might have been set by someone out for revenge against him, a convict perhaps. Instead, he wants Kelly to think of someone who’s out to cause her trouble while he’s off doing his thing. Sure, she’s gotten involved in murders and other nefarious activities but surely any cop must know he’s a prime target. Weirdly, while dismissing any connection he might have, he also tends to disregard Kelly’s thinking about the case.

On the other hand, Kelly has a few other things on her mind.

My favorite character is definitely Keisha, Kelly’s completely indispensable assistant who’s flamboyant, nosy and very intuitive, not to mention streetsmart. I didn’t care for others quite so much, including Kelly and Mike, but the story was engaging. The action was a bit choppy but that actually kept things moving and the various leads and hunches gave me plenty to think about before all became clear.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

Book Review: This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker & Laura Roecker

This Is W.A.R.This Is W.A.R.
Lisa Roecker & Laura Roecker
Soho Teen, July 2013
ISBN 978-1-61695-261-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

This is not a story of forgiveness…

The mystery of their best friend’s murder drives four girls to destroy the Gregory family. Emily Thorne would be proud.

Everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club saw Willa Ames-Rowan climb into a boat with James Gregory, the Club’s heir apparent.

And everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club watched him return. Alone.

They all know he killed her. But none of them will say a word. The Gregory family is very, very good at making problems go away.

Enter the W.A.R.—the war to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan. Four girls. Four very different motives for justice and revenge, and only one rule: destroy the Gregory family at any cost.

Apparently, I did not read the same book a lot of other people did. One review after another, professional and amateur, heaps praise on it while I can’t even muster up a “meh”. Why do I feel this way? Normally, I bend over backwards to avoid spoilers but, in this case, I need to reveal important points to explain what bothered me the most so, if you don’t want to know about those points, you should stop reading now.

SPOILER ZONE
SPOILER ZONE

First, there’s the implication that these four girls are friends. It’s true that three of them are but the fourth is in no way a friend of the other three for the simple reason that there’s a huge divide, socially and financially speaking. By the end of the story, the three have decided to accept the fourth but this new friendship is based entirely on their shared experiences in getting revenge. That is hardly a healthy basis for friendship and I don’t for a minute believe it would last.

Next, there is the issue that this book does not include one single adult with character, not one. At first, I thought this was an attempt to paint the wealthy as the bad guys but the authors actually spread it around so that employees of the club and the local cop have no more integrity and moral strength than the privileged. I get wanting to have the young adult protagonists appear to have character that is a step above their elders but this is no way to do it.

Speaking of the four girls, none of them are especially bright—they come up with some really stupid ideas, such as feeding hormones to their target so he’ll grow manboobs. Seriously?? Then, when they finally find a way to bring the Captain and Trip down, Madge, who spearheaded this revenge plot all along, gives it all up for money. Are you kidding? Are we supposed to understand this is a tale of how money makes up for all the guilt, anger, heartache and remorse?

The last thing I’ll mention is the inordinate power of the Captain and his grandsons which goes far beyond all credibility. Sure, the rich can be very powerful and control a lot of what goes on around the rest of us but it goes much too far here. The Captain would put it about that the older twin is actually the younger? For what reason? He’s already cut the older boy out of his will so why go to the trouble of lying about his age? And why would he do it after the boy is somehow responsible for the head-on collision that killed his parents? Are we supposed to believe everybody in town would conveniently accept the change in birth order? Also, what bank would let Trip into Madge’s safe deposit box? An attorney general would not prosecute Trip for murder unless the Captain allows it? Please. This is a small town that centers around the Captain’s company but he’s not the King of America.

END SPOILER ZONE
END SPOILER ZONE

I’m very fond of Soho Teen books but this one is a misfire and, in my opinion, is a one-sided slap against people in general, not just the rich. How sad that the authors have such a low opinion of humanity.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2013.