Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: How to Host a Killer Party by Penny Warner (Party Planning Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, enjoyable main character
Cons: Plot a bit slow
The Bottom Line:
Uneven plot pace
Creative start and finish
Balance each other




That Corpse Isn't a Party Favor

A surprise wedding, poison, geocaching, and Alcatraz are just some of the elements that are part of How to Host a Killer Party, the first Party Planning Mystery by Penny Warner.  The set up is quite fun, although the book didn't quite deliver on the premise.

Presley Parker was recently let go from her job teaching psychology at a college, so she's started an event planning business called Killer Parties.  It's been hard getting it off the ground, but she's finally gotten her big break.  The mayor of San Francisco has hired her to organize his surprise wedding disguised as a fund raiser.  The event is to take place on Alcatraz, and Presley has gone all out in her decorations.  This is the party that will put her business on the map.

Unfortunately, the bride to be isn't pleased by the surprise.  She takes off and disappears on the island only to turn up the next morning floating in the bay.  Unfortunately, she was poisoned before she hit the water, and the police seem to think that, since Presley was throwing the party, she might be responsible.  Throw in another dead body, and Presley really starts to feel the pressure.  Can she find the killer before she is arrested?

The book starts with the "wedding," and that part of the book was great.  I was smiling as how clever everything was from the music ("Jailhouse Rock") to the wanted posters created for the decorations.  A lot of thought obviously went into this section.

Unfortunately, that creativity didn't quite follow through to the rest of the book.  There is a lot of action in the book, but very little of it really moves the story forward.  It's only in the last quarter that I felt Presley was gathering clues that might actually help her solve things.  Of course, by then it was too late for these plot points to fully develop into a real mystery.

Now that isn't to say that nothing happened.  There was plenty of action, and it took me a while to realize that it wasn't moving the story forward.  There were enough clues to make the climax logical.  And this has to be one of the better climaxes I've read recently.  It had plenty of suspense and creativity to it.

Presley was an interesting main character.  A great deal is made out of her ADHD, and I thought it might make for a fragmented book.  That wasn't a problem, and I really enjoyed spending time with her.  Her office mates play a large part of the story, although they seem more like types, at least so far.  I could see them growing as the series progresses.  Beside Presley, her love interest gets the most development.  It's rather obvious that's what he is, but that's okay because I really like him.

Each chapter starts with a party planning tip, most of which relate to the action of the chapter.  At the end, there are tips on hosting a geocaching party.  This isn't the author's first mystery, and her writing experience shows in the easy to read prose.

Despite some flaws with the plot, I enjoyed How to Host a Killer Party.  I'm planning to crash the second party in the series as well.

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

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