Tour’s Books Blog

July 22, 2009

Book Reviews: Two Mysteries by Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets writes several cozy mystery series including The Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series and the Dead End Job series.  Neither has been stellar in their plots or stories, but that have been good reads – till now.

  • Title: Murder With All the Trimmings
  • Author: Elaine Viets
  • Type: Mystery
  • Genre: Cozy
  • Sub-genre: Josie Marcus Series
  • My Grade: D+ (2.5*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available: Amazon, BN, local bookstore

This was the holiday entry into the Josie Marcus series.  Josie, a single mom of a 9 year old daughter finds herself answering her daughter Amelia’s questions about her father with lies.  Lies have a way of biting back, and these do with an immediate vengeance when Amelia’s supposedly dead father shows up at their door wanting to see his little girl.  When Josie found herself pregnant nearly 10 years earlier, her pilot boyfriend Nate had just been arrested attempting to smuggle drugs from Canada to the US.  He supposedly went to jail for life and Josie never told him of her pregnant nor did she seek sole custodial rights.  Now he’s back, he’s drunk and he wants to take his daughter to Canada to meet her grandfather.

Josie’s boyfriend Mike has problems of his own.  His ex-girlfriend and mother to his 14 year old daughter Heather just opened a new Christmas shop on a block where two others already exist.  Except her store does tasteless, tacky ‘pornaments’.  Mike sunk $20,000 of his own money into the shop.  Josie is then asked to ‘mystery shop Dorren’s store and the lovely little shop next door, Elsie’s Elf Shop. the following day.  She does her job and then finds Heather alone in the Naughty & Nice shop.  She buys the requested ‘pornament’ and some gingerbread, only to find a roah in it.  Her report causes the franchise company to notify Doreen she will be closed.

Now if this whole soap opera mess isn’t enough, Heather turns out to be a lying alcoholic with a father in denial and the mother from hell.  Two people then die from eat the famous chocolate cake with chocolate sauce from Elsie’s Elf House and one of them is Nate.  In the hospital, as antifreeze slowly kills him, he gives the key to a storage locker full of money and drugs to Josie and tells her the money is for Amelia.

This whole sorry mess is like a long Jerry Springer episode.  The mystery is minimal, the ending unsatisfying, and the characters almost universally annoying.  It is so unappealing when adults and children both act like spoiled brats and jerks.  A far cry from her best work.

*********************************************************************************************************************

  • Title: Clubbed to Death
  • Author: Elaine Viets
  • Type: Mystery
  • Genre: Cozy
  • Sub-genre: Dead End Job series
  • My Grade: C (3*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available: Amazon, BN, local bookstore

Helen Hawthore was married to man who treated her like a ‘Sugar Momma’.  She caught him cheating and divorced him, but for some strange reason her incompetent lawyer allowed her to lose 50% of her earnings to alimony.  Vowing to never pay the SOB a dime, she sells everything and goes on the road using a variety of false ID’s to work cash jobs.  Now, if you can get past the collective stupidity of all these actions committed by a supposedly intelligent woman making a six-figured salary,that’s the premise that puts Helen in jobs all over Florida.  In this one she’s working at a private club that’s more interested in how much money a member spends than how they earn it.  The motto is “Do you know who I am?”

Helen is finally settling into a better than minimum wage job, but it comes with obnoxious club members and back-stabbing fellow employees.  It it also came, very unexpectedly with her ex-husband, Rob, now married to a notorious club member, Marcella, a woman with 5 – or is it 6? late husbands, a 100 foot yacht, and billions of dollars.  To avoid Rob, Helen takes the job of checking invitations at the gate and misses the private Eric Clapton concert on the yacht – and Rob.  Or so she thinks till he corners her in the employee parking area wanting a favor and gloating over how he where she all this time.  She belts him in the mouth and gets caught at it and one of the spectators is a majot tattletale.  Next day, despite Rob’s saying it was alright, she’s fired and then the police want to talk to her because they found blood and Rob’s shirt in the lot.

Stuck in the police station for hours, suddenly a high power attorny from NYC shows up and she’s not only set free, she has her job back at the club.  Only it wasn’t Margery, her friend and landylady who hired the guy, it was Marcella.  Seems Marcella wants to know what Rob has been up to – and it’s likely no good.  Marcella is convinced someone within the club is involved somehow, and who better to investigate the private records of members than a person in ‘customer service’ where they have access to all manner of sensitive pernonal information about members – even when their homes will be vacant because they’re away on vacation.

From here we have a traditional amateur sleuth/cozy.  With the help of boyfriend, PI Phil, she begins to unravel a blackmail scheme – and doubt Rob is dead.  Then real bodies show up and things get a lot more personal.  This is a much better book than Murder With All the Trimmings, but still feels slow and I still get annoyed with Helen.  Like Josie, it’s past time to put on the big girl panties and deal.  Both books carry strong stories about ex-boyfriends/husbands that finally get dealt with and current boyfriends that have very different reactions.  Overall, Clubbed to Death was the better, more intricate mystery with stronger characters, though they were not exactly original.  A decent read, but nothing to get excited about.

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