Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel (Cece Caruso #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing plot; likable heroine
Cons: Slow pacing; dialogue sometimes hard to follow
The Bottom Line:
A couple stumbles
In overall good debut
Different premise

Dreamy Debut

I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason is the first book in a mystery series starring Cece Caruso. Cece is a divorcee with a married daughter and makes her living as the biographer of dead mystery writers. Along the way, she seems to find herself involved in mysteries that resemble the work of the author she's currently writing about.

Cece is hard at work on her biography of Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner when she finds a miss-filed letter. Mr. Gardner often took on cases from people who wrote him claiming to be falsely imprisoned. This letter was never answered and is a plea from Joseph Albacco who claims to have been falsely sentenced for murdering his wife on their first anniversary. Facing a serious case of writer's block, Cece decides to investigate. Even though it's been almost 50 years, she begins to pick up a few leads. And the more she learns, the more convinced she is that the wrong person has been in jail all these years. Finding another body only spurs her on and ups the stakes.

Meanwhile, her personal life isn't going any better. Her daughter's marriage seems to be on the rocks, her best friend is having yet another crisis, and she's face to face with the very handsome detective she swore to never see again. Things are going to get very interesting.

Even though I'm a huge mystery fan, I'm really not familiar with Perry Mason or his creator. But the title of the book caught my attention, and I just had to read it. As the title promises, it's an enjoyable book. The mystery was very well done. I wasn't sure what was going on until the end. The pacing was a little slow, with the sub-plots taking on too much prominence early on. And Cece's love of vintage clothes was also a bit of a distraction, at least to this male reader. However, the mystery was extremely intriguing. It had several good twists and kept me turning the pages even through the sub-plots.

Cece herself is a great character with flaws I recognized right off the bat. I'm way too lazy for my own good and will use any excuse to procrastinate so I identified with those vices in Cece, making her easy to like. Her friends are an odd lot, and it took me a little while to warm up to them, but I did.

The narration flows fine and the settings of Los Angeles and Ventura are brought to wonderful life. I do have a complaint with the dialog, however. The author has a habit of using quick back and forth exchanges with nothing to identify who says what. I found myself getting lost along the way and having to reread more then one scene to make sure I knew what was being said. A few tags sprinkled into the book would have helped greatly.

Over all, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason was an enjoyable book that I'm glad I read. I'm looking forward to Cece's next case.

And you'll want to read the rest of the Cece Caruso Mysteries in order.

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