Friday, October 19, 2007

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Fancy Stolen Casket - Fran Rizer

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Fancy Stolen Casket
A Callie Parrish Mystery
Fran Rizer
Berkley Prime Crime


As a mortuary employee, Callie Parrish knows that everyone reacts to death in different ways. But the death of Bobby Saxon, a car salesman, occasions some of the more bizarre reactions in recent memory. First, his widow arrives, tells the mortician that she’s grateful Bobby died before she divorced him, says she’d like to give him a great send-off so no one can speak badly of her, then wonders how soon they funeral home can “plant him.” She also asks for a morning funeral so as not to ruin the whole day for everyone. Next to arrive is a rival salesman, who is irrepressibly thrilled that Bobby is gone, since Bobby continually beat him in promotional contests. It’s pretty clear that no one is terribly sad to see Bobby dead.

Bobby drowned, and the coroner immediately declared the death accidental, obviating the need for an autopsy. While Callie is doing Bobby’s makeup, something on his neck snags her sponge. The morticians, Otis and Odell Middleton, are as puzzled as Callie, and call an immediate halt to the proceedings when she pulls a broken hypodermic needle out of Bobby’s neck. By this time, the body has been washed and embalmed, but it’s still a problem for the authorities. There’s no shortage of people who might have wanted Bobby dead, but who would bother stealing his casket?

This is the first in a new series, and there are some fairly rough edges showing. As you might expect, given the title, it’s just a bit too cutesy. Callie narrates the story in first-person, and the author has made the choice of using phonetics spellings like “puh-leez,” “ex-cuuze me,” and “buh-leeve me.” Buh-leeve me, that gets annoying very quickly, and tends to stop the flow of the narrative in its tracks. Morticians have lives, of course, and Callie, newly divorced and a mystery buff seems like an interesting character. Her interest in mysteries, and her lifelong friendships in her hometown make it plausible that she would jump into the investigation. With some of those edges sanded, and the ‘cute-factor’ toned down, this series could be a winner.

Rating: 5 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21800-6 (paperback)


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