Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak (Wollie Shelley #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and story
Cons: A little too much to keep straight at first, so concentrate.
The Bottom Line:
A very wild ride
That leaves you turning pages
Hold on and enjoy

These Blind Dates Are Fun

Wollie Shelley's life is already packed full. She's undergoing evaluation to turn her Welcome! greeting card store into a Willkommen! store so she can buy it. And she's agreed to take part in a dating study, meaning she must go on 40 dates in 60 days after they've been screen by her friends. The last thing she needs is that call from her brother.

P.B. Shelley is paranoid schizophrenic and living at a psychiatric hospital. When he calls saying he's witnessed a murder, Wollie doesn't take it too seriously. Still, she decides to head out after her date that night to investigate...and almost runs over the dead body in the driveway. Going inside to make sure he's ok, she is kidnapped by a handsome "Doc." Her attraction getting the better of her, she tries to help out Doc, and winds up with various criminals hot on her trail. Will this affect her store getting its upgrade? And can she keep to the dating schedule her friends have set up for her? Will she even be alive to finish the study?

I initially thought the mystery would surround the dating project and was mildly disappointed when I realized it wouldn't. That didn't last for long, however, as I was soon swept up in the plot. It's a bit overwhelming at first with lots of characters and sub-plots to keep straight, but I soon got everything together and just hung on for the ride. And what a wild ride it is, too. This debut mystery has lots going on, yet Ms. Kozak handles it well balancing the events in an entertaining way. The dates took on an almost surreal aspect to them as she was trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys while on them. And the story kept me guessing until the end.

Wollie is a great character, as are her friends. While I have a bit of a problem believing how she handled things at first, that's just because there's no way I'd handle things that way. By the second half of the book, I really didn't care about that any more and just settled in for the fun. The story is told first person in an easy to read style that helps you get swept up in the story.

Dating Dead Men is a great first book and well deserving of its win of the Agatha for best first mystery. The only downside is I don't see how Ms. Kozak can possibly top it. Still, I look forward to seeing her try.

Once you've read this book, you'll want to read the rest of the Wollie Shelley Mysteries in order.

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