Thursday, December 09, 2010

How To Crash A KIller Bash - Penny Warner

How To Crash A Killer Bash
A Party Planning Mystery
Penny Warner

Never let it be said that Presley Parker doesn’t know how to throw a convincing Murder Mystery Party. It’s dress rehearsal night for the murder mystery to be played out at a fund raising party for the de Young museum in San Francisco. As usual, Mary Lee Miller, museum fund-raiser and all-around pain in the neck is making it all about her. Which it sort of is, since Mary Lee insisted on playing the murder victim. Little did she realize that, on the night of the party, the stab wound and death scene would be all too real.

The last player in the room with Mary Lee was Delicia, Presley’s friend and employee. The police zero in on Delicia and find out very quickly that she and Mary Lee had a huge fight the previous evening, mostly to do with Delicia dating Mary Lee’s adult son. With Delicia in jail and the cops satisfied, it’s clearly up to Presley to put her skills to the test and flush out the real killer.
This is the second in this entertaining series, following HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY. Presley is mostly on her own this time, since Delicia is in jail and her other employees seem to be unavailable. The story does suffer a bit from their absence and camaraderie. This time around, much is made of crime scene cleaning specialist Brad Matthews, and Presley’s fondness for him. Since the author clearly doesn’t want to clue in Presley (or the reader) about ‘what’s really going on with Brad’ just yet, this results in a lot of circular conversations and hurt feelings and not much progress.

The rest of the supporting cast fares far better. The internal workings of the museum, and the people who staff it, read like the sudsiest of soap operas. Jealousies, rivalries, entanglements, and motives abound almost everywhere Presley looks. This is what makes for a fun mystery full of twists and surprises. Adding to the suspense are two more dead bodies that turn up, begging the question of Delicia’s involvement from her jail cell. It takes every organizational and snooping skill that Presley possesses to peel back the layers. Sadly, this one ends in what I like to call a James Bond Villain Reveal, where the (surprising) Big Bad spends oodles of time detailing past motives and future plans, instead of simply offing the nosey event planner who wants to ruin everything. Not that I want to see Presley offed, of course. I’m looking forward to the next party.

Rating: 7
August 2010
ISBN# 0-451-23097-3 (paperback)


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