Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Review: Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (Cece Caruso #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Engrossing story that focuses on the main character
Cons: A tad uneven in the first third
The Bottom Line:
Feels like Hitchcock film
As Cece's life unravels
Kept me glued to book

Hitchcock Couldn't Have Done It Better Himself

Of all the series I read, the Cece Caruso Mysteries have to be one of the most creative.  Cece is a biographer of dead mystery authors, and each book finds her stumbling into a mystery set in the style of her latest subject.  So she probably should have thought things through before picking her next subject.  I'm glad she didn't because Dial H for Hitchcock is one of the strongest books in the series.

Taking your honeymoon alone is not recommended.  Just ask Cece.  She's just returned from a lonely cruise after calling off her wedding.  And she's returned to find herself facing a deadline on her biography of suspense master director Alfred Hitchcock.  So what does she do?  She goes to a screening of Vertigo at an old theater in town.

The next morning, Cece finds someone else's cell phone in her purse.  Trying to return it, she witnesses a murder.  Then the killer calls her and warns her to keep quiet.  As she begins to try to find out who is doing this to her, Cece continually finds herself one step behind...herself.  What in the world is going on?

I think one reason I enjoyed this book so much is that as soon as I found out who the subject of the book would be, I started watching Hitchcock's films.  Granted, I've only seen 8 or so, but it's made me a fan of his work.  And it made me better able to appreciate the set up of this mystery.

The story borrows heavily from the wrong man/mistaken identity scenario that Hitchcock loved so much.  While the first third or so was a tad uneven, once the story got going, it held me captivated the entire time.  Frankly, Hitchcock himself could often be uneven in his beginnings, so that's hardly a serious issue.  While there are no nail biting scenes of suspense, I was quite interested through the climax.  And my take on the ending?  I loved it.

Because of the way the story is structured, Cece is really the only character we spend much time around.  Most of the series regulars are reduced to cameos.  What little we do get to see of them, I loved, however.  Likewise, the suspect characters aren't around to be fully developed, but they are real enough for their place in the story.

All this puts a lot of pressure on Cece, but she handles it just fine.  While she is focused much more on what is going on around her than fixing anything in her life, I do feel like she comes out the other side stronger for the events of the book.

So the question arises, will fans of the series who aren't familiar with Hitchcock like the book, too?  I think they will.  The story is still strong, and there are still instances of humor, usually in the excellent first person narration.  We get the usual tidbits about this book's subject gleaned from Cece's research.  (Hitchcock was truly a twisted man.)

Dial H for Hitchcock is an entertaining mystery with lots of fun nods back to classic scenes from the Master himself.  This was one book that was over all too quickly.

Since this is the last in the series, you'll want to back up and read the Cece Caruso Mysteries in order.

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