Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Review: Revenge of the Gypsy Queen by Kris Neri (Tracy Eaton #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast moving mystery with fun characters
Cons: A small niggle with the climax
The Bottom Line:
A wild New York ride
Weaves many things together
You won't put it down

Don't Cross the Gypsy Queen

Over 10 years ago, I bought a book on a whim.  Revenge of the Gypsy Queen was a debut mystery by Kris Neri.  And I was absolutely hooked.  It's been a number of years since the last time I read it, but word has reached me that the third in the series is finally going to be published this spring (long story there).  I figured it was the perfect time to go back and reread the first two.

The series stars Tracy Eaton.  Tracy is the daughter of two Hollywood stars, but she's become famous in her own right for writing a best selling mystery series.  And she has hoped that becoming a mystery author would mean that real life mysteries would drop into her lap.  Heck, she even tells people she's a detective at times because it has always been her dream.  Her husband, Drew, is her complete opposite, a serious and by the book lawyer.

The book finds the couple traveling to New York City for Drew's sister's wedding.  Their first morning in the city, Tracy is supposed to meet Marisa so the two women can get fitted for their dresses.  But the bride-to-be never shows.  People try not to panic as the hours pass until the groom, Tony, shows up that night to announce that he's received a ransom demand.  But money isn't the motive.  Instead, Marisa and Tony are to sell their restaurant to greedy builder Lord Hunt.  (Yes, Lord is his first name.)

Tracy is shocked to find that she is the only one in the family suggesting they bring in the police.  Instead, the rest of the family begins trying to get everything in order to meet the strange demand.  So, Tracy decides to take matters into her own hands and finally fulfill her fantasy.  But the road ahead is paved with secrets.  What will she learn about the Eaton family as she investigates?  Can she save Marisa?

This book is fun.  It takes itself seriously enough that you care about the outcome of the case.  But some of the characters along the way are a hoot.  There are some elements of screwball to the whole thing and plenty of wit along the way.  I don't know if I would call it laugh out loud funny, but it certainly had me smiling on every page.

The mystery is very strong.  In fact, knowing how it ends allows me to see how clues were planted that I missed the first time around.  Things move quickly from clues to a red herrings and back again.  And, yes, the title does make sense before things are over.

The characters are strong as well.  The Eaton clan is quite interesting with their stiff, orderly reaction to things.  Well, except for Tracy who doesn't let anything get in the way of her curiosity and desire to solve the case.  Tracy does keep talking about how Drew is acting out of character.  That's about the only weakness with the characters.  Since this is the first in the series, we just have to take her word for it.

Kris Neri had written multiple short stories before this book was published, and her background shows.  The first person narration is strong.  There may be a few spots that are overwritten, but for the most part, the writing doesn't stand in the way of you getting caught up in the action.

About my only real problem with the book was the ending.  It's hard to describe without giving too much away.  Let's just say that even after all the years and rereading the book, I still don't find it completely satisfying.  Yes, all the lose ends are tied up.  There's just a moral issue involved I don't like.

But that wasn't enough to keep me from moving on in the series.  Revenge of the Gypsy Queen is a strong debut that will keep you turning pages to see just where Tracy's investigation will lead.

Once you finish one, you'll want to read the rest of the Tracy Eaton Mysteries in order.

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