Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: The Homicide Hustle by Ella Barrick (Ballroom Dance Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun combination of dancing, reality TV, and mystery
Cons: A bit light, even for a cozy
The Bottom Line:
At times a bit light
But ultimately it's fun
Hustle up this book

Murder on the Downbeat with Celebrities

Ever since the Ballroom Dance Mysteries started, there have been references to Ballroom with the B-Listers.  I originally thought it was a reference to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, but it turns out to be its own (fictional) show, and it is the focus for The Homicide Hustle, the third in this fun series.

Stacy Graysin is thrilled when her ballroom dance studio, Graysin Motion, is selected to be one of the studios competing in the new season of Ballroom with the B-Listers.  This reality TV show travels the country and highlights local studios by pairing them with two celebrities for a live ballroom dance competition.  Even better, she is paired with former teen idol Zane Savage who she had a crush on years ago.

However, the experience proves to be eye opening when the producers keep staging fights and other complications to increase the ratings.  Then one of the producers disappears, only to turn up floating in a river.  Who killed Tessa King?  Was it a B-Lister?  Or was it a project from Tessa’s past that came back to do her in?

So why do I say this is its own show?  While obviously large parts of it are inspired by Dancing with the Stars, they make references to the ABC hit as a separate show in the course of the book.  Then there’s the fact that this show incorporates much more of the sleazy aspects of the various “reality TV” shows including staged fights and whatnot between the various celebs as well as between the various partners.  It was a fun skewering of the genre that I enjoyed.

But how does it do as a mystery?  I’m glad you asked.  The story moves along fairly steadily.  It does get sidetracked every so often with various sub-plots, but that never lasts for very long.  The path Stacy takes to solve the mystery is logical, and the ultimate solution is well done.

Likewise, the characters could be fleshed out just a bit more.  They are real enough that we care about them, but they never fully come alive.  Still, I enjoyed spending time with them, especially Stacy, which is a good thing since she is our narrator.

To top it off, we’ve got some bits of humor sprinkled throughout.  While not an outright comedic mystery, there are a few scenes and lines that made me chuckle and one made me laugh out loud.

It seems that many authors get three book contracts initially, so I often wonder when we hit book three if we’ll see more of the series or not.  The author certainly planned for that eventuality.  While I’m sure we could pick up here, most of the character arcs that we’ve been following for three books are resolved by the end.

So fans of this series will enjoy The Homicide Hustle.  And if you enjoy ballroom dance, this is a cozy series you should consider getting.

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