Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tutu Deadly - Natalie M. Roberts



Tutu Deadly
A Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery
Natalie M. Roberts
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery/Cozy

Jenny Partridge’s life is generally pretty chaotic. But, in the normal run of things, the worst she usually has to deal with is keeping the bills and rent paid; and dealing with a never-ending stream of “psycho dance moms” who all want their little darling to have the highlighted roles. So having an argument, even one that involves shouting, with a dancer’s mother isn’t unusual. Until the police arrive at her studio, bearing news that this particular mom, Sandra Epstein is dead. And, of course, plenty of people were around to witness the fight. To make matters worse, the cause of death appears to be poison in cookie dough. The same cookie dough the dancers sold as a fundraising activity.

Jenny explains that she did not deliver the tainted cookie dough to the dead woman; she entrusted that job to Emma Anderson, who lived across the street from the Epsteins, and is another “psycho dance mom.” Emma, enraged at Jenny for not giving her daughter a bigger role in the upcoming production of The Nutcracker, first denies this, then leaves town. Jenny’s dismay intensifies when the U.S. Marshalls join in the investigation. But she finds it difficult to believe their claims that she’s in danger. Until someone breaks into her apartment, and makes an attempt on her life, that is.

This is the debut novel in what may evolve into a very entertaining series. As it stands, there are some bugs to be worked out, first. Jenny is 30, yet often acts like a not-very-bright teenager. She knows her life is in danger, but doesn’t lock her apartment door. She continually loses her cell phone, then destroys someone else’s in a fit of pique. Some of her reactions are breathtakingly selfish. This is all explained away as the eccentricity of being an artist/dancer. A little of this kind of eccentricity goes a long way. The resolution to the central mystery comes out of left field and has not much to do with the narrative up to that point. In addition, there’s a major plot point that goes completely unexplained, and a second that is explained as a throwaway. The author is in her element, though, as she describes the atmosphere and inner workings of a dance studio. I was one of those little girls, once upon a time, and it all rings very true to what I remember. With some fine-tuning, this could shape up to be an enjoyable series.

Rating: 5
April 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21486-2 (paperback)

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