Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Shamus in the Green Room by Susan Kandel (Cece Caruso #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and an intriguing plot
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Intriguing Hammett
And a modern day puzzle
Fun for Cece's fans

Dashiel Hammett Leads Cece to Danger

Shamus in the Green Room is the third book in the Cece Caruso mystery series. Cece's profession, writing biographies of mystery authors, seems to constantly put her in mysterious situations.

When Cece first starting writing biographies, her first subject was Dashiel Hammett. Now, ten years later, that book is going to be turned into the movie Dash! Even better, Hollywood hunk Rafe Simic is set to star in the duel role of Hammett and his most famous creation, Sam Spade.

There's just one tiny problem - Rafe hates to read and has no knowledge about Dashiel Hammett. Cece is hired to give him a two-week crash course on the man and his work.

Their first stop, San Francisco, is cut short when Rafe receives a phone call. There is a body in the Los Angeles morgue that he needs to identify. Asking Cece to go with him for moral support, Rafe finally identifies the woman as his former girlfriend Maren. Based on an old picture, Cece begins to question whether the woman she saw lying on the coroner's table is really Maren. Is Cece right? If so, who could it be? And why did Rafe lie?

As always, author Susan Kandel has created an intriguing story. The premise gripped me early on, and I couldn't wait to see how things unraveled. While previous volumes have had problems with pacing, this one didn't. The mystery is introduced early and little slows it down until we finally get some answers. Along the way, we are teased with clues that shed some light on the puzzle but not enough to give anything away. The information on Dashiel Hammett given in the book is interesting but doesn't get in the way of the story.

Cece lets very little get in the way once she is on the trail of the mystery. Her determination is endearing but also keeps putting her in danger. Some have complained that she takes dumb chances, but I don't think she is any riskier then most amateur sleuths.

With the focus more on the mystery, some of the supporting players don't get as much page time. Lael and Bridget, Cece's best friends, do show up several times, but little is added to their character. Getting more time is fiancee Peter Gambino and daughter Annie, who both have interesting sub-plots that weave their way through the story. This book is populated with interesting new characters. We get to know the most about Rafe, which gives us an amusing look at life in the Hollywood spotlight. The case leads Cece to a coastal town where she meets some fun surfer types.

All this is enhanced by a breezy writing style that drew me into the story and made for fast, easy reading. I got lost in the story more then once and had a hard time putting it down when I needed to get back to other things.

A trivia side note. This book was originally going to be called Sam Spade in the Green Room until a last minute call from Dashiel Hammett's estate forced the title change to Shamus in the Green Room. I only bring this up because some places still have the old title. Hopefully, this will help disspell some of the potential confusion caused by the two titles.

This series has gotten better with each book. Shamus in the Green Room is easily the strongest in the series. Here's hoping the next can top it.

You'll definitely want to read the Cece Caruso Mysteries in order.

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