Tag Archives: murder mystery

Behind Blue Eyes

Spoilers ahead. I’ll put most of them beyond the jump, but be ye warned.

book trauma

No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes. 

Bright baby blues make all of the Mackeys instantly recognizable. Behind Frank Mackey’s blue eyes is the memory of Rosie Daly. Hope springs eternal that she’ll show up on his doorstep one day or drunk dial him at 3am or get picked up for hooking so he can go visit her in jail. Rosie was supposed to elope with Frank back when they were 19. They had big plans to start over à la Livin on a Prayer, but she never showed up for their great escape. Instead, Frank found a note that suggested that she had left without him, and he has spent his life thinking that that she had changed her mind because his family is batshit insane. Louis Grizzard really said it best: she tore out Frank’s heart and stomped that sucker flat. Continue reading


Now THIS is the Meg Cabot that I know and love

I was all set to summarize the premise behind Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series, but it turns out that the publisher already made a book trailer/pop-up music video that does just that:

Did you get all that? Also, why is everything so 80s looking when this video is set in 1995?  She doesn’t even have the Canadian excuse like Robin Sparkles.

ANYWAY, in the 4th installment of the series, Size 12 and Ready to Rock (HarperCollins 2012) Heather is setting up to host the Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp hosted by Tania herself at Fischer Hall, the New York College dorm where Heather works in order to get free college tuition.  This is a bit awkward since Tania is married to Heather’s ex-boyfriend Jordan Cartwright, the one she broke up with after catching him in a … compromising position with Tania herself.  Heather is pretty over it though now that she’s engaged to Jordan’s older brother and Cartwright family black sheep, Cooper.  However, when a reality show producer connected to the camp is murdered, the president of the record label, who happens to be the Cartwright boys’ father, hires private investigator Cooper to solve the mystery and protect his daughter-in-law/highest-earning performer.  So Heather  has to deal with a dorm full of teenage divas, her ex-boyfriend and his crazy family, and a psycho murderer on the loose who is killing people with cupcakes.  CUPCAKES. Is nothing sacred?

Heather just might be my favorite Meg Cabot heroine.  She’s someone who had enormous success at a young age, lost it all (including all her money which her own mother stole), and then picked herself back up and forged a new path in life.  I mean, according to all those Behind the Musics I watched in the 90s, most former teen idols turn into bitter alcoholics.  In fact, Heather’s difficult past has made her stronger and more assertive.  She’s a kickass female character, not in the usual sense that she’s a good physical fighter, but in the sense that she gets shit done. And though the book title indicates that Heather is plus-sized, she doesn’t dwell on it and is generally comfortable with herself.  I LOVE that.  I think most stories with plus-sized characters tend to revolve about weight and body image issues, and that’s just not the case here.

The mystery part of the story is a bit light.  I mean we’re not talking about Agatha Christie levels of plotting and suspense, but that’s fine with me. Besides having fun with bratty teenaged divas and high-strung reality TV producers, the mystery plot is mainly there to introduce the reader to the rest of the Cartwright clan and they’re fantastically crazy.  Most of the Cartwrights are funny caricatures (which I have no problem with) but I like how Cabot uses the story to develop the Tania character.  She could have easily gone the stereotypical bitchy diva who treats Heather like crap route with Tania, but instead makes her a more well-rounded, sympathetic character.  Well done.

I think Meg Cabot would be the first to say that this book is not Serious Literature.  However it is the perfect book to read at the beach or when you need a little pick-me-up.  It’s fun, funny, and contains strong and interesting female characters. I can’t wait to read the next one.

And here’s my other favorite fictional former teen pop star:

Let’s go to the mall TODAY!

Playing Dead

Remember when I read In the Woods by  Tana French and it was awesome even if it was kind of a downer?  I took the companion book, The Likeness (Viking 2008), from my parents’ house the same day that I returned In the Woods, but I just now got around to reading it.  I try to space out the depressing since last year’s unfortunate Dragon Tattoo /Hunger Games overload.

The Likeness was even better than In the Woods, and not just because the narrator isn’t on a downward spiral into crazytown.  Cassie Maddox was a major player in the last book as Rob’s partner, and I liked her a lot more than Rob, so I was glad to see her as the main character here.  I was also relieved to see that she came out of the whole Operation Vestal debacle relatively unscathed.  She and Sam are still dating, which made me happy since I love Sam and I want good things for him.  I mean, I like Cassie and all, and I don’t want bad things for her, but if these two had a falling out, I would be on Sam’s side all the way.

So, since the unfortunate incidents of Operation Vestal, Cassie has transferred out of Murder and into the tamer realm of Domestic Violence.  (This sounds terrible, but Cassie explains it pretty well.  DV victims are still alive and there is something that the cops can do to help them.  Not so for murder detectives.)  One morning, Cassie gets a panicked call from the usually unflappable Sam who won’t tell her what is wrong and instead insists that she trek out to a crime scene in a tiny village on the outskirts of Dublin.  Cassie obliges, confused though she is by the cryptic situation.  She arrives to find her old boss from her Undercover days, Frank Mackey, at the scene with Sam.  This kicks everything into a whole new sphere of weird, and still no one will tell Cassie what is going on.  Irksome.  When she finally gets in to see the victim, Cassie is in for a shock.  The dead girl looks JUST LIKE HER.   Also, she’s going by Cassie’s old undercover alias, Lexie Madison.  (That’s right, this girl has stolen a fake identity.  I did not promise you that the premise of this story was very plausible.  It is doppelganger fun.  Roll with it.) This revelation finally explains Frank’s presence at a murder scene;  he didn’t kill off the alias, and he left it flagged with his contact info in the police databases.  He didn’t see any reason to waste a perfectly good alias – they pulled Cassie out of undercover because she got stabbed, not because she got burned – so they just told everyone that Lexie had a nervous breakdown and moved to Canada.  Frank, who has a reputation for being a leetle bit crazy and totally fearless, wants to send Cassie in as Lexie to suss out the murderer.  Sam objects since Lexie’s four roommates are the obvious suspects, and sending his girlfriend in to live with possible killers does not sit well with him.  I can’t say I blame him.  Cassie ends up going in, of course, or the whole premise of the book would be wasted.  She can’t help thinking that the killer may have been after her and got Lexie by mistake due to the uncanny resemblance, and she won”t spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder to be sure.  I think that’s fair.

What follows is a pretty interesting look at life undercover – what happens when you get too comfortable, when you enjoy the company of the major suspects, and when you drop your guard.  There’s also a good twist at the end, and the murderer isn’t who you thought it was.  (Maybe.  It’s all down to your point of view.)  I can’t say much more without spoiling the fun, so I will just say highly recommended.

The Most Fun You’ll Have When Someone Has Been Murdered

I bet you didn’t think that you could have fun reading a murder mystery.  Seems doubtful, murder being the messy and appalling business that it is.  However, Rhys Bowen manages it with Her Royal Spyness (Berkeley Prime Crime 2007), the first in a series of mysteries that I will be reading from now on.  I hope she continues to publish one a year because I am going to catch up with a quickness.  She really had me at the title.  It’s witty, which I appreciate, and it’s about spying, which I love.   What’s not to like?

Here are a few of the reasons you’ll enjoy this book about a murder:

1. The dead guy is a bad guy.  You won’t like him when you meet him, and you won’t be sad to see him go.  He’s so unpleasant that you might actually be relieved he’s gone.

2. Fun tidbits about the British aristocracy, including words that will call you out as common or, if you’re a known peer, slumming.  These include “weekend,” “mirror,” and “notepaper.” Make a mental note in case you ever decide to try to pass yourself off as a duchess.

3. Lady Georgiana’s brother goes by Binky.  He is the Duke.  Duke Binky.  Married to the Duchess Fig.  Of course, Fig’s given name is Hilda, so she really drew the short straw namewise.  Binky is actually Hamish, so he didn’t do much better, but being a Scottish duke, it’s probably some sort of inescapable family name.  Binky’s name never ceased to amuse me.  My lip quirked up into a little smile EVERY TIME someone mentioned it.

The premise of the story is that if you are a broke aristocrat, you don’t have many options for gaining funds.  Unmarried Georgie has no allowance from Binky anymore and is not allowed to work because she’s 34th in line for the throne, and it just isn’t done.  She goes undercover with a series of aliases as she works briefly at the cosmetics counter at Harrod’s, disguises herself as a maid, and models dresses for her designer friend Belinda, although this one was just a favor to a friend and did not involve any duplicity.  She also tackles basic household duties like learning to light a fire, making tea, and dressing herself without the aid of a maid, all the while hiding her poverty from Her Maj, who will banish her to the countryside to wait on an elderly spinster princess to keep her from embarrassing the family by working for a living if she finds out.  Georgie throws herself into problem-solving with good grace and humor, which is refreshing, because others in her position may have gone in a downward depressive spiral, and their murder mysteries wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to read.

Honestly, the mystery bit isn’t the reason to read this book – it’s pretty standard, and avid mystery readers will probably pick up on who the killer is early on.  It’s just the mechanism that allows us the fun of spending time with Georgie and her friends, most of which are a delightful bunch.  They gate-crash weddings, go on yacht rides with rich South Americans, throw fancy dress parties, and speak atrocious French when they think the help can hear them.  If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to be a twenty-something British peer in the thirties, pick this series up and live vicariously.