Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Cluttered Corpse - Mary Jane Maffini


The Cluttered Corpse
Mary Jane Maffini
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Charlotte Adams is settling into her small hometown of Woodbridge, New York, after spending time as a financial analyst in Manhattan. She’s got her own business as a professional organizer, she shares a cozy apartment with her two dachshunds, and has reconnected with many of her friends. Her latest client, Emmy Lou Rheinbeck, just remodeled a house in the neighborhood where she grew up, and says she’s desperate for Charlotte’s help. When Charlotte arrives, the first floor is so perfect, she can’t imagine why Emmy needs her services. A trip to the second floor immediately explains it all.

The second floor is overrun with plush, stuffed animals. There are, quite literally, thousands of them. It will be a challenge, but since they’re all clean and relatively new, the job will be fairly pleasant. While looking at the collection in the bedroom, Charlotte and Emmy Lou are both terrified by pounding, flashing, and a couple of distorted faces at the window. Turns out the next-door-neighbor, Kevin, although chronologically an adult, isn’t quite all there. He and his new friend, Tony, have been playing these pranks on Emmy Lou for some time. The neighbors are worried, but Emmy Lou refuses to call the police about it.

After the incident, Emmy Lou is too agitated to continue. On her way to their second meeting, Charlotte gets a call on her cell phone, telling her that her building is on fire. Worried about her dogs and her downstairs friend and neighbor, Charlotte rushes home. Only to find that it was a prank and everything is fine. By the time she gets back to Emmy Lou’s, Emmy Lou is standing in the middle of the street, and is completely hysterical. Entering the house, Charlotte finds Tony at the foot of the stairs, dead. Although Emmy Lou claims it’s her fault, Charlotte isn’t at all sure about that.

My main criticism of the first book in this series, ORGANIZE YOUR CORPSES, was that Charlotte seemed shrill and thoughtless when it came to others. This time around, she’s still more than willing to stand up for the underdog, but she seems much more likeable. The plotting is solid, there are enough suspects to make things very interesting, and the secondary characters are fleshed out into very realistic people. As before, each chapter begins with simple tips for organizing and de-cluttering your home and life. This is shaping up to be a very solid and enjoyable series.

Rating: 7
April 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22092-4 (paperback)

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