(reviewed b y Cindy Lynn Speer JUN 01, 2004)
Wesley Westcott had spent the past several years being the calmest man you’d ever want by your side in a kitchen crisis. His voice never rises. His cool never falters. Whether it is because of shock, or habit, or sheer emotional fortitude, his calm voice betrayed almost no strain as he asked his assistant quietly, “Did the idiot on the radio just imply that Maddie’s...body has just been discovered?”
For the past several months, Mad Bean Events (which consists of Madeline Bean and her friends Wes and Holly) have been working like, well, mad to put together a perfect black and white charity ball to help the Woodburn School of Music provide classes to the underprivileged. The crown jewel of the charity auction is, literally a perfect sax, a rare instrument that gets bidded up to the roof. When that sax goes missing people are upset, but it doesn’t become a life and death situation, at least not until the dead body of one of Maddie’s servers is found in her bed. Is her death connected to the sax? Or to the rather mundane papers Mad found scattered across her yard, papers that when she offers to return to their owner causes her to get yelled at and insulted? And why is she being followed?
Mad is in this up to her eyes...not only because she’s afraid for herself, and, well, terribly curious, but because the crimes might involve the handsome new man in her life...would be shining knight Dexter Wyatt, who is completely honest about the fact that in the past he hasn’t been so completely honest. Also, her old flame, who she’s not quite over, Detective Chuck Honnett, is being insecure and overprotective...never mind he’s still quite married, something Mad didn’t find out until after she fell for him.
You would think that a book with a main character who’s a party planner for the rich and famous would be filled with glamour...and to a certain extent, you’d be right. The parties are lush, fun affaires, and even while we’re enjoying watching Mad track down the clues, we’re also admiring how hard she and the others work to pull these things off. But Farmer is also quite realistic...there are a lot of women married to rich husbands in this book (mostly, I think, because Mad worked with a lot of them to put the ball together) and they are all quite pitiable in some way. The things they have to put up with, the constant worry over their weight and youth are all things that seem like they’d suck the pleasure right out of anyone’s life. I also liked the party planner choice of career because we do get to enjoy entree into an exclusive world, while still having a character who is like us (or at least how we’d like to be)...hard working, could never have afforded this sort of thing on her own, but still successful.
The mystery is deceptively complex. I say this because it seems fairly straight forward, but as things begin to add up...and the numbers don’t...you begin to realize that there's a lot more going on.Mad is also quite neat. She’s fun and realistic, her character perfect for those who like mysteries as well as a little bit of chick lit. This jazzy read is hot...just in time for summer.
- Amazon readers rating: from 17 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Sympathy for the Devil (1998)
- Immaculate Reception (1999)
- Killer Wedding (2000)
- Dim Sum Dead (2001)
- Mumbo Gumbo (2003)
- Perfect Sax (2004)
- The Flaming Luau of Death (2005)
Written with Joan Rivers:
- Murder at the Academy Awards: A Red Carpet Mystery (February 2009)
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- Official website for Jerrilyn Farmer
- Writers Write interview with Jerrilyn Farmer
- BookHaven review of Sympathy for the Devil
- The Mystery Reader review of Immaculate Reception
- Cresent Blues review of Killer Wedding
- Crescent Blues interview on Dim Sum Dead
- MyShelf.com review of Dim Sum Dead
- Carstairs review of Mumbo Gumbo
- The Mystery Reader review of The Flaming Luau of Death
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About the Author:
Jerrilyn Farmer grew up in Lincolnwood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and attended Northern Illinois University, where she majored in Theatre and English. She began acting in Chicago, after moving to Los Angeles, here interest turned to writing puzzles. She has written for game shows such as Jeopardy! and Supermarket Sweep and sketch comedy specials for Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Timothy Stack, Cheri Oteri, Tim Meadows, and others. Whe she turned her attention to fiction, she took a course at UCLA Extension taught by mystery author Melanie Johnson Howe and finished her first novel.
She lives in Southern California with her husband and two children.