Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer (Madeline Bean #5)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, imaginative plot
Cons: Time of a couple plot points confusing
The Bottom Line:
Some timeline issues
Make this book less than perfect
It's still worth the read




Hardcover Debut is the Weakest Entry

After four highly successful novels, including #1 on the LA Times paperback bestseller list, Madeline Bean made the jump to hardcover with Mumbo Gumbo. Unfortunately, it's my least favorite in the series.

In this mystery series, Madeline Bean is the co-owner of Mad Bean Events, an event planning service located in Hollywood, California. With the money inherent in this location, the events are lavish and over the top, but their clientele can pay for them. Madeline works with her best friend and co-owner Wes Westcott. Their only full time employee is Holly Nichols, and the three of them love working together.

Mad Bean Events is getting ready for the wrap party for this season's newest TV sensation, Food Freak. In the middle of their preparations, they get the news that the network has decided to extend the show by one episode, therefore pushing back the wrap party. However, Tim, the head writer, has mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth. With a tight schedule to be met, producer Greta asks Madeline to help out writing the script for the final show. Soon, Madeline is finding more danger and mystery then she knows what to do with. Who searched Tim's office? What do the weird notes Madeline finds on Tim's desk mean? And can Madeline survive the office politics to finish the script and find out what happened to Tim? Working on a hit television show is turning out to be anything but easy.

However, it's plenty of fun for us. Author Jerrilyn Farmer has worked on numerous game shows over the years, so she brings realism to this book's setting that adds to the story. Also interesting, this book is set about six months after 9/11. This does make the book the most dated of any in the series, which could take place basically any time.

And this book is just as much fun as the previous ones have been. The plot is wild and twisty, but somehow works when Madeline is investigating. I picked up on a clue here to there, but the ending caught me completely by surprise.

However, the plot is also the flaw in the book. Some of the details about the timing are a little unclear. I really had to think things through after I finished the book, and eventually reach a solution that works. I did confirm with the author that I was right, so it is possible to figure out. Or maybe I was just being dense in the first place. The paperback version was changed slightly, but it might still be confusing if you aren't paying close attention. Now I know I'm making this out to be a big thing, but it really isn't. It weakens this particular entry, but not by more then the one star I took off.

I absolutely love these characters, and it's always nice to check in with them. All my favorite characters are back, and it's always nice to check in and see what's happening with them. While Wes and Holly are around, the game show setting means they get less page time then I would have liked. Still, the book is populated by new characters that are extremely entertaining.

These books are a fast read. The writing style is natural and Madeline's first person narration makes them feel like a chat with an old friend. I flew through this one wishing it would last longer.

Even though Mumbo Gumbo is the weak link in the series, fans of Madeline will enjoy it. And if you haven't read these books, start today. I'm jealous of the fun you'll have enjoying these adventures for the first time.

Looking for more?  Here are the Madeline Bean Mysteries in order.

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