Sunday, May 24, 2009

Death Loves A Messy Desk - Mary Jane Maffini

Death Loves A Messy Desk
Mary Jane Maffini
Berkley Prime Crime


Office politics. Something professional organizer Charlotte Adams does not miss one bit. In fact, she moved from the big city back to her hometown of Woodbridge to start her own business and avoid all of that. She was looking forward to a new life of peace and quiet, too, but two murder cases (ORGANIZE YOUR CORPSES and THE CLUTTERED CORPSE) ruined that. Now, though, she’s taking a crime sabbatical. She doesn’t even want to watch the news reports about a body found in a car trunk.

Instead, she’d rather focus on her organizing business. Her newest client is Fredelle Newhouse, office manager at a large local company. The real problem is one desk in particular. But Fredelle is the motherly sort who doesn’t want to hurt the employee’s, Barb’s, feelings. She and Charlotte agree to couch the visit in terms of making the whole office function better. Charlotte knows some people work better in what looks like chaos, but she’s ready with some tactful suggestions.

What she sees completely eclipses any expectations. The desk is buried under a mountain of loose papers, with what look like socks mixed in; there are various sneakers under the desk, and a variety of food and drink containers. The situation isn’t helped by the office harpy, who loses no opportunity to make snide comments about everyone else. And, to make a bad situation more uncomfortable, the owner’s son, Robbie, is clearly infatuated with Barb and very protective. Clearly, this situation will not be easy to defuse.

But Charlotte is game to try. This despite the fact that her only contact with Barb so far happened when she was nearly flattened by a panicked-looking Barb driving out of the business. Charlotte can’t believe she was panicked over a messy desk. Watching the news later, she sees what may be the real reason. In the footage of the body found in the car’s trunk, Charlotte sees Barb in the background, agitated and pacing.

Charlotte has mellowed quite a bit since her first appearance, and that’s made for a better reading experience. In this volume, one of her friends gently suggests that perhaps she’s being too bossy. Charlotte seems shocked, but does take the words to heart. The mystery is structured a bit more tightly this time around, with plenty of suspects and an interesting twist or two. Of course, there are organizational tips at the start of each chapter. I’ll never be as organized as Charlotte, and that’s ok; but there are great ideas here that are easy to implement.

Rating: 7
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22809-8 (paperback)


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