Tour’s Books Blog

March 19, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Mayhem in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

No one will ever confuse books like Mayhem in High Heels with great literature – even great romance or great mystery.  What books like this are is fluff entertainment.  Not especially innovative, but they have a hook of some sort, likable characters, a sense of humor and usually a decent mystery.  Some authors get a tad carried away creating the secondary characters – to the point where they almost become stereotypes rather than people.  Gemma Halliday’s lead character, Maddie Springer, is a struggling shoe designer in Hollywood whose best friend Dana is an aerobics instructor/actress/sex-aholic.  Her stepfather, “Faux Dad”, who she thinks is gay, runs a hair salon.  Marco, his receptionist, is so gay he’s a ‘bridesmaid’ at her upcoming wedding.  Her mother is lost in the ‘60’s somewhere, and her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Rosenblatt – a overweight, muumuu wearing, Jewish psychic, round out the ‘comic relief’.  The ‘boyfriend’ is a police detective, naturally, Jack Ramirez who has an extended family of his own.  You still with me?

When we last saw Maddie and Jack, he was proposing to her atop the Eiffel Tower.  Thanks to Mom, Maddie and Jack’s ‘little wedding’ was currently at 400 people.  Mayhem in High Heels opens with Maddie and Jack going to do the final cake tasting just days before the wedding and finding Hollywood’s leading wedding planner, Gigi Van Doren, face down in the cake samples with a knife in her back.  With Gigi’s death, Jack has a murder to investigate and Maddie has to figure out how to pull off her wedding.  Notably absent for this installment are any design deadlines for Maddie’s shoes.

Maddie heads to Faux Dad’s salon and Marco to meet Dana for mani’s and pedi’s for therapy and somehow Maddie, who thinks nothing of hunting down killers, is unable to stop Marco and Dana from becoming her new wedding planners.  This is the kind of ‘forced farce’ that drives me nuts lately.  How can a successful entrepreneur be so weak willed, she can’t just say “NO!”  I admit, it helps if you just suspend your common sense for the duration of the book – kind of like watching Wylie E Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons.  You know it’s ridiculous, but you accept it anyway.  The cartoons are funnier.

Setting aside all the believability issues, we now have a curious shoe designer conducting an investigation – instead of working on her own wedding.  Maddie and Jack have the old argument about his job being more difficult than her job.  Finally, Maddie proposes a bet.  She can investigate Gigi’s death – without impersonating a police officer – and Ramirez will design a pair of high heels.  If she finds the killer, she wins and he admits her work is as deserving of respect as his.  If he designs a fabulous pair of heels, he wins – and Maddie has to promise to NEVR but into an investigation again AND wear the shoes for the wedding.

As Maddie pursues clues to Gigi’s murder, she spots none other than Felix Dunn, tabloid reporter on her tail.  She and Felix have a history and there was and is an attraction there, but he’s a sleazy tabloid guy and she does not need any more exposure there!  Still, they help each other with Maddie’s baker, Fauston, and some other things.  He’s not as prominent as in some past books, but he is part of the mystery investigation, such as it is here.  With Dana’s help, Maddie questions Gigi’s much younger wannbe rock band lover.  She also gets into see the ex-husband, Seth Sommerville, a local mogul.  Then there’s daughter/secretary Allie, the daughter part being a well kept secret, even from the ex-husband.  There’s also Misty, a classic self-centered bridezilla that was ready to dump Gigi for another planner, and the famous baker’s niece, Annie Fauston, who just keeps popping up all over the place.

In the middle of all this, Mrs. Ramirez informs Maddie there will be a few extra guests – about a 100.  She’ll make more tamales to be sure there’s enough food.  Maddie’s real dad – a cross-dressing drag queen ‘showgirl’ from Vegas is arriving with his Madonna ‘Material Girl’ friend for the wedding.

The mystery never really got started here.  It just sort of ambled around in the background, all choppy and without any real cohesion, while the multipart wedding farce played out – rather dully.  Usually there’s a much stronger storyline, but this book felt like 80% filler and 20% mystery.  I’ve read all of Halliday’s books I know she is capable of better.  I was disappointed in both the mystery and shallowness of the characters.  Who did it kind of came out of nowhere as did the why it was done.  The last 40 pages dumped a ton of information out of the clear blue.  Suffice it to say, both Jack and Maddie win the bet, sort of, and eventually get married, just not at all as planned.  The whole book felt like it was cut and pasted together from a bunch of old TV scripts.  A long way from being Halliday’s best.

My Grade: C

Who would enjoy this book: Fans of Maddy Hunter Passport to Peril mysteries, Elaine Viets’ Dead-End Job mysteries and Lori Avocato’s Pauline Sokol mysteries.

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