Promise in the Book, but Needed Another Edit
One of my purchases last month at the LA Times Festival of Books was Blood Red by Sherri Leigh James. I’d never heard of her before, but the premise of the book – an interior designer to LA’s rich and famous solving murders – sounded like fun. I sat down excited to see how this book was going to unfold. Unfortunately, it felt like it needed one more edit.
Cissy Huntington’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband disappeared just before all their assets were frozen. Fortunately, Cissy still has a place to live, but she has to return to interior decorating to pay her bills. Since it’s a job she loves, she considers herself lucky.
She currently only has one client, Dr. Martin, who has an extremely successful plastic surgery practice in Hollywood. When she goes to meet him at his mansion one afternoon, she finds him dead in the library. Since he wasn’t as rich as he appeared to be, Cissy has a vested interest in seeing the estate settled and the investigation resolved as quickly as possible so she can get paid for the work she’d done. Can she figure out what happened?
Despite the fact that I thought this was a cozy when I picked it up, there was a lot of language in it. I paid attention, and, as is often the case, the language tapered off as the book progressed, which always feels like lazy writing to me. If anything, I’d expect characters to swear as the tension mounts. No, it didn’t go away completely since one character has a potty mouth, but I was grateful when it lessened.
I stuck with the book, trying to give it a fair chance. Unfortunately, the plot seemed to wander quite a bit. There were some things that I suspected were part of the story, and eventually, I was rewarded, but they seemed random for a while. Furthering that feeling, every so often, Cissy would suddenly confront someone on their behavior. She might have made an off-handed comment about their suspicious behavior as it happened, but quite often, I had no clue that she was even suspicious of their behavior. Yes, everything she picked up on was in the book, but it felt abrupt and not like well-hidden clues.
As I said, yes, everything does come together in the end, and the solution is logical.
And I did like the characters. Cissy and her young adult daughter are charming. I enjoyed their relationship. While a few real celebrities make cameos, most of the cast are fictional, even the celebrities Cissy is working with. I bought them as celebrities, and I enjoyed the ones we got to know quite a bit.
It’s why I say this book needed another edit. Clean up some of the language (I would prefer all, but at least clean up some of it) and tighten and focus the story, and this book would be a winner.
As it is now, I can only recommend Blood Red if the premise interests you. As much as I liked Cissy and want to see how a few threads play out in her life, I don’t think I will be back for the sequel.