Saturday, August 14, 2010

How To Host A Killer Party - Penny Warner


How To Host A Killer Party
A Party Planning Mystery
Penny Warner
Obsidian

Mystery

Don’t call Presley Parker a party planner. She’s an event planner, thank you. Currently, she’s planning the biggest event of her career. The mayor of San Francisco wants a theme party on Alcatraz. Guests will come costumed as their favorite criminal or crime-solver. All of this is to hide the real reason for the party: it’s a surprise wedding. The mayor is engaged to the gorgeous Ikea Takeda, a novelist, and budding socialite. Sadly, Ikea is not at all happy with the surprise. She tosses her champagne in the humiliated face of the mayor and storms out into the night. The following morning, her body washes up on the shore.

The list of possible killers is impressive, starting with the mayor and ending with Presley. Presley comes under suspicious because, the day before the party, Andi Sax, another event planner ended up dead. It’s true that Andi was supposed to plan the Alcatraz gig, until some falling-out with the mayor. That’s how the party ended up in Presley’s lap. Making matters worse is the fact that Ikea didn’t drown; chocolates served by Presley’s caterer were poisoned. Trying to save her business – and her freedom – Presley starts looking into the crime, using her party-planning guide, with a few changes, to lead her to the killer.

This is the first in a series that shows some real promise. The cast of characters is varied and interesting. There are the city hall denizens, of course. Then there’s the eclectic group of individuals who live and work on Treasure Island, a former military base now given over to artists, a movie studio, and small businesses. It wouldn’t be San Francisco without at least one protester, and there are a couple of them here, both with more or less legitimate axes to grind. The group of people who work with Presley are, to a person, engaging and fun, making for a lively environment.

I found myself more than a little annoyed that Presley feels the need to constantly remind the reader that she has ADHD (this has not stopped her from getting an education, becoming a college instructor, or starting her own business; and doesn’t seem to figure into the story in any way.) I had the killer pegged fairly early on, but there were more than enough other possible suspects to make me doubt my choice. Each chapter is headed by party tips, culled from a book written by Presley’s mom, the former party queen of SF. My personal favorite was Party Tip #9, which says that even perfect plans can go awry, which is why there are party books and jail cells. There’s a nice humor and a breezy style to the writing that really fits Presley. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she’s got up her event-planning sleeve.

Rating: 7
February 2010
ISBN# 978-0-451-22930-4 (paperback)

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