Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review: How to Crash a Killer Bash by Penny Warner (Party Planning Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun character and decent mystery
Cons: A few bumps in the final quarter
The Bottom Line:
Despite a few flaws
I loved Presley and liked this
Museum murder

Presley Parker Presents Murder at the Museum (Now with a Real Dead Corpse)

Presley Parker is going to have a hard time with her new business.  She's attempting to become the premier event planner in San Francisco.  She's just starting her business and already she's on her second murder.  The events surrounding it are chronicled in How to Crash a Killer Bash, which is a lot of fun.

Presley Parker has been hired to host a murder mystery party to raise money for the de Young museum.  A few of the museum's staff are playing parts, and she's roped her friends and office mates into rounding out the cast.  And the head of the museum's fund raising department, Mary Lee Miller, gets the honor of being the victim in the play.

The night of the event, everything's going well until Mary Lee is stabbed in the back by something other than a prop.  Since Presley's friend and assistant Delicia had had a very public fight with Mary Lee the night before, she becomes the police's only suspect.  When Delicia is taken to jail, Presley decides to find the real killer to free her friend.  But with all the people Mary Lee had angered over the years, will Presley find the killer?

I found the first book of the series a little frustrating because I felt like we really didn't get the clues until the final quarter of the book.  This time around, the clues were there a little earlier, although I still had some problems with the final quarter.  When Presley found out some rather obvious things, she acted shocked.  I had those pieces figured out a while ago, so I found her reaction a bit surprising.  A few other things were wrapped up a little too quickly for my tastes.  However, I only figured out the killer a few pages before she did, and the climax was page turning reading.

Most of Presley's office mates do little more than make cameos this time around.  It makes sense for Delicia who spends much of the book in jail.  The one exception to that is Brad, Presley's love interest.  The man is still very much a mystery here.  I hope we get to learn a little more about him in the next book.  With these characters gone, the book is populated by a fresh crop of suspects, and I found them all believable.

Presley is an interesting main character.  She suffers from ADHD and has a mother suffering from Alzheimer's.  While we are reminded of that over and over again, both are minor issues for the characters.  They help make them interesting while also serving the needs of the story.  Any more would have been annoying.  I could do without Presley's pop psychoanalysis of the characters based on their shoes, however.  I probably find that part less than interesting because I'm a guy.

The book includes tips for hosting a murder mystery party of your own.  While the tips that start each chapter are intended more for their humor, there are several pages at the end that would help you host a party with a story variation on the board game Clue.  Frankly, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Despite the flaws in How to Crash a Killer Bash, I enjoyed partying with Presley.  I've already put in my RSVP to her third party.

You should plan to read the Party Planning Mysteries in order.

Note: I was sent an ARC of this book from a listserv I am on, but was not actually asked to review it anywhere.

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