Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: A Talent for Murder by R. T. Jordan (Polly Pepper #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Charming and wacky characters; over the top fun
Cons: Timeline takes a beating
The Bottom Line:
Good mystery and
Fun look inside Hollyweird
What more could you want?

The Next Great Reality Show?  Maybe Not, but It Sure Is Murder

When you are a Hollywood living legend like Polly Pepper, life isn't always a bed of roses.  Sure, she made a lot of money, but her hit variety show has been off the air since the 80's.  Yes, she has a mansion in Bel Air, but it costs money to maintain her lavish lifestyle.  So she takes any money making job she can.  A Talent For Murder finds her signing on to the latest reality show and getting involved in her third murder case in the bargain.

Polly is thrilled to be hired as the nice judge on the next great reality show, I'll Do Anything to Become Famous.  The competition is supposed to last all summer, which will greatly help her bank account.  The down side is dealing with the mean judge, Thane Cornwall.  His meanness is not an act.  In fact, he will attack anyone who crosses his path for no good reason.

So it is hardly surprising when Thane turns up dead not too long after the series premier.  With a former girlfriend found with the murder weapon in her hand, it appears to be an open and shut case.  But Polly isn't so sure.  Dragging son Tim and maid/bff Placenta along for the ride, Polly begins investigating the contestants and production staff.  But with a group of people vowing to do anything for their 15 minutes of fame, can Polly find the one who went too far?

This is an over the top comedic ride through the world that is Hollywood.  Pop culture references are fast and furious.  As a pop culture junky, I found them hilarious.  There are also plenty of jabs at the excesses of that world.

Frankly, one of those jabs is the characters.  They are all delightfully over the top.  Polly switches from her charming public persona to her more honest character at will.  I've actually gotten to the point now where I can read her dialogue and tell if she is being honest or not.  This just adds to the fun for me.  Tim and Placenta are only slightly more down to earth.

And don't even get me started on the wonderful characters created for this book.  They are all distinct enough to be memorable in their own right.  My favorite had to be rapper wannabe Ped-Xing.  The name alone cracks me up.

I really do have a hard time describing these characters as realistic, but they work in the context of the story.  I can't imagine this book with actual down to earth people.  They seem real while on the page.

The plot is brisk as well with several great twists and turns on the way to the logical solution.  I did guess the killer a little early, but that didn't diminish my delight at the appropriate climax.

My only real complaint with this book is the timeline.  There was no attention paid to keeping track of what day of the week anything happened on.  Heck, the murder took place on Saturday or Sunday.  Then we had two dinner parties happening a week apart even though I thought it was supposed to be a day or two.  The end of the book did make me realize some of what I thought was carelessness was actually time passing unnoticed by the reader.  But not all of it was my poor reading.  Either way, it didn't affect my understanding of the story at all.  It's more a pet peeve.

The writing has improved in this book.  The first in the series was a bit dense at times.  This one was much more fluid.

Don't pick up these books if you want something serious.  But if you are looking for a wacky mystery, A Talent For Murder is definitely for you.

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