Tour’s Books Blog

March 29, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Weddings Can Be Murder by Christie Craig

I finally decided to take a break from my attempts to get into Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White and went for something much lighter, a romantic mystery by Christie Craig – Weddings Can Be Murder.  I haven’t read any of her work before, but this looked interesting so, what the heck.  This is a Lovespell  Contemporary Romance, but honestly, it really is a romantic mystery.

First of all, let me just say that despite some reviewer comments, Craig did not have the same feel as Evanovich.  Yes, it has humor to it, but not the kind of ‘screwball’ edge that Evanovich always has, even early on in the Plum series.  Plus, this isn’t part of series, but a standalone that seems to follow Craig’s formula of ‘innocent female bystander caught up in a crime’ and ‘hunky detective’.  As formulas go, not new, but not bad and the success can be measured by how involved you get with the characters.

Someone is killing the clients of wedding planner Tabitha Jones.  She contacts Carl Hades, ex-cop turned PI, for help when the police just blow off her reports of missing brides.  Sunday afternoon finds him off to see Tabitha when he’d rather not.  Katie Ray is an art gallery owner who is a client of Tabitha’s, not so much by choice, but because Tabitha is a good customer and a bad woman to cross.  Unfortunately, Katie spent the morning throwing up and dealing with trying to convince herself and her best friend Leslie Grayson that she really did want to marry Joe Lyon.  She wasn’t getting married so she wouldn’t feel so alone after the accident that took both parents and her brother Mike – Les’s fiancée.  It wasn’t nerves causing the problem.  Really!  Right up to where she accidentally flushed her $8,000 diamond engagement ring.  Les may have moved away after the accident, but she’s been best friends with Katie since they were kids and she’s convinced the marriage is a big mistake.  Engagement rings don’t get ‘accidentally’ flushed.  Meanwhile, Joe is getting fitted for his tux when he realizes he has doubts of his own.

Sitting in Tabitha’s office, Katie begins thinking the woman is bi-polar, because this dictator could not possibly be the same person who comes in her gallery.  The damn hang up calls are driving her nuts.  Then Tabitha goes to see someone out in the back – and Katie hears her screaming at someone and hears bits and pieces.  Then there’s two shots.   And Tabitha is bleeding all over her very white suit.  Then it’s Katie’s turn to scream as someone chases her through the house.

Carl had just parked when he hears the screams, pulls his and goes into cop mode, even though he gave all that up.  He chases – someone through the house and ends up in – something.  In the dark.  With a crazy woman who is trying to head butt him.  And then the door is closed – and locked.  For the next 14 hours Carl and Katie get to know each other – and a little about Tabitha.  Maybe too much when they find the sex toys.  And when they finally find the lights, learning the guy she’s locked in the refrigerator with is a ringer for Antonio Banderas doesn’t help Katie at all.  The Latin hunk has been the star of all her fantasies forever.  Damn.

The fast paced book zips along cutting between Carl and Katie and Les and Joe and Carl’s dad, Buck, a retired cop, who has a gut feeling all is not well.  His gut is never wrong.  He tracks his son to Tabitha’s new location and gets there just in time to stop the killer from killing both Carl and Katie in a fire.  Carl’s brother Ben, another Antonio Banderas look-alike, is lead detective on the case and interviews Katie while the distraught Les and Joe wait.  (The shower scene between Joe and Les is pretty funny.)  But what’s really bothering them is how attracted they are to each other.  When Katie is finally free to go, she tells Joe what happened to her ring – and that maybe the wedding isn’t such a good idea.  Joe is kind of relieved and says he has doubts as well.  Les feels responsible for giving Katie ‘cold feet’ – even more so because she’s so attracted to Joe herself.

Tabitha’s death makes her calls about her missing brides are a lot more importance than they had before.  Then the first body is found, hidden in the woods off the highway.  Just as Carl is warning Ben there will likely be more, a second is found in the same area and Ben is off and running again.  Our killer is very upset at having ‘his brides’ found.  Now he needs more brides.

The story never slows down.  Katie threatened by the killer is drawn closer to the Hades family.  Les gets back into living around her own family after her time living up north.  There’s no high emotional drama, but the kind of realistic sadness, healing wounds and emotional adjustments that are so much a part of real life with a dose of humor.  Charming and amusing, but not the kind of laugh out loud fun of some authors, nor the breakneck pace, heart pounding suspense or compelling romance of others.  Still, it is a solid entry in the romantic mystery line.

Wedding Can Be Murder weaves around Carl and Katie with a strong secondary story with Les and Joe combined with a fairly solid, well drawn characters and quite decent mystery.   The clever tricky ending was very well done.  Craig does a pretty neat job of balancing equal parts of romance and mystery without going over the top.  It’s not a true cozy, but its gentle charm has an amateur detective vibe.  Perhaps its biggest asset is its likable, believable cast, with just enough quirks to be real and fun, without becoming a farce, as far too many have these days.  Its biggest drawback is it lacks depth and in the end, isn’t memorable.  I will buy more from this author.

My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
Who would enjoy this book
:  Fans of Joan Hess, Jill Churchill, Carolyn Hart and Diane Mott Davidson.  My rating would be PG-13.

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