Monday, May 21, 2007

The Chick and the Dead, by Casey Daniels

Casey Daniels
ISBN: 978-0-06-082147-0
Book #07-030

When Pepper Martin hit her head on the gravestone of mob boss Gus Scarpetti, she didn't just see stars, she began to see dead people. Gus needed Pepper to help him solve the mystery of his murder before he could succumb to his eternal rest. Once Pepper got the answer, she figured life would go back to normal, but Didi Bowman, a gum-chewing ghost in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes, has other ideas.

Didi claims to have written So Far the Dawn, a Gone with the Wind-type historical blockbuster that was made into a movie beloved by millions. The problem is, Didi died 50 years ago, before the book was published, and her sister Merilee, librarian and noted historian, has been lauded for decades as the author of the bestseller. When Merilee comes to town to donate the Bowman family home for a SFTD museum, Didi demands Pepper's help to reveal the truth. Caught between a rock and a hard place (reveal the truth and break the hearts of the nation, or refuse to help Didi and be haunted forever), Pepper reluctantly gives in.

Laid off from her job at the cemetery where the Bowmans are buried, Pepper finagles a job as Merilee's secretary. This gives her an insider's view of life with the diva, but it also keeps her in close contact with a weirdly unsettling cast of characters, including Elizabeth and Kurt, the spectral stars of the So Far the Dawn film, and Bob, the taciturn caretaker of the Bowman homestead. As Pepper unearths the details of Didi's short life, she discovers that there were several people who might have wanted the blonde bombshell dead: any of her numerous lovers, her granddaughter by her illegitimate (and now deceased) daughter, and, of course, her script-stealing sister. Is Pepper finally in over her head?

Casey Daniels has written a charmer of a mystery, with laugh-out-loud moments and plot twists aplenty. With two mysterious men popping in and out of her life and her penchant for poking her nose in where it doesn't belong, Pepper Martin may remind readers of Janet Evanovich's wildly popular Stephanie Plum. Pepper has all of Stephanie's wry spunkiness, and Daniels keeps the action and the comedy coming without ever hurtling over the top and straight into slapstick. Given the current popularity of paranormal plots, readers may pick up THE CHICK AND THE DEAD out of simple curiosity, but Daniels' skillful writing and delightful heroine will leave them quoting author Emilie Richards: "Write faster, Casey Daniels."

Bad Reading Year So Far

This has not been the best reading year for me. I've been distracted and unfocused, and have not felt the need to write about what little reading I've done. By this point in the year, I'm usually closing in on 100 books read, but this year, I barely have 40. It's been better this month, but the apathy continues to be a problem. I hope this improves soon.