Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tapped Out - Natalie M. Roberts

Tapped Out
A Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery
Natalie M. Roberts
Berkley Prime Crime


The world of dance is a small and competitive one, rife with jealousies and backbiting and, sometimes, even sabotage. And that’s just the non-professional, under-15 set in Ogden, Utah. In the bleak of February, Jenny Partridge is working with her dance students, getting ready for the Hollywood Starmakers Convention and Competition. The dancers are broken up by age groups, but there’s always a “psycho dance mom” (a subspecies of the psycho stage mom) who flips out if her precious child isn’t front and center, never mind the child’s aptitude or desire.

Running a dance studio that’s still a start-up doesn’t bring in the big bucks, so when old friend Bill Flanagan calls Jenny and asks her to fill in for a couple of MIA instructors and teach a couple of classes during the Convention weekend for $2500, she jumps at the chance to put a little money in the bank. She’s shocked when she arrives home that evening and hears a threatening message on her answering machine. She immediately calls her maybe-boyfriend, Detective Tate Wilson, who quickly ascertains that the caller ID was effectively blocked, and that the caller altered his/her voice.

Jenny and Tate make a trip to the site of the Convention and meet with Bill and some of the other teachers. Bill’s girlfriend is frosty, as usual, but no one admits to making the call. No one seems concerned about the missing instructors, feeling fairly sure that they were simply poached by the organizer of another competition. With little resolved, Jenny returns home. That night, someone sets fire to her car, destroying it. Obviously, someone is very serious about keeping Jenny away from the Convention. And things have only begun to get dangerous.

This is the second in the series, following TUTU DEADLY, and I’m happy to report that Jenny has matured quite a bit since the first novel. She’s no longer flailing around like a teenager; she’s behaving much more like the thirtysomething woman she is supposed to be. The author has toned down the “wacky” aspects a bit, too, but there’s still a good dose of humor and some funny situations. The recurring characters are continuing to develop quite nicely; and the mystery seems to be more centered and tightly plotted this time. Anyone who has ever been a dance student as a child, or has a child taking dance classes will instantly recognize the reality of the dance and dance school scenes. This one is a fun, solid mystery, and I’ll be happy to follow Jenny’s progress in the future.

Rating: 6 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21801-3 (paperback)


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