Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Deadly Cliche - Ellery Adams

A Deadly Cliché
A Books By The Bay Mystery
Ellery Adams
Berkley Prime Crime


When I reviewed the first book in this series (A KILLER PLOT) I admitted to having problems with the main character, Olivia Limoges, oak barrel heiress and generally entitled person. Those problems still exist, but now come with a measure of confusion. She still parks in fire zones or anywhere else that’s convenient to her and waves her magical credit cards around to solve everyone’s immediate problems, to the point that she becomes “drunk” on the gratitude of the townspeople. During the course of the book, a couple of secondary characters openly call her on her habit of constantly buying friendship. It makes me wonder if the author actually likes the main character any better than I do. That’s odd.

This time around, there are a couple of mystery plots, but they’re both clearly subplots in service to detailing the dichotomous Olivia. She had an emotionally rough but materially wealthy childhood that has clearly left her with some scars. She wears those proudly and apparently enjoys playing the eccentric Lady Bountiful in her little hometown. She says she’s doing it all behind the scenes, but it seems pretty clear that everyone knows all the details. She claims to enjoy being alone, yet nurtures two potential romantic relationships. One of those is the local sheriff, which gets her the inside track on the investigation into a man’s body she finds on the beach, buried up to his neck in sand.

Another contradiction is her friendship with various members of her writing group. (There are long passages from a couple of the group’s ‘books’ included. Sadly, they sound more interesting than the one at hand.) She encourages Laurel, a stifled stay-at-home mom of twin toddlers to live her life by going for a part-time writing/reporting job at the local paper. Then she encourages Laurel to lie to her husband and in-laws about it, while sending home five-star meals from Olivia’s top-notch restaurant as ‘proof’ of the mythical set of cooking classes that take up Laurel’s time. This job, however, has the benefit of getting Olivia in on interviews with local burglary victims, since Laurel needs her to come along as moral support. Someone is breaking into homes and leaving strange little tableaux on the scene: a knife in butter, a deck of cards that’s not complete, that kind of thing. At first, they’re little more than nuisance crimes, until a homeowner ends up dead.

The second mysterious subplot is the letter Olivia receives claiming that her long-lost father (who sailed into the fog during a drunken rage thirty years ago, never to return) is actually alive, but his location will cost Olivia $1,000. This sets off a private investigation, memories, and a storyline that all but eclipses everything else. The robbery/murder case is given fairly short shrift, and is solved by some logic leaps that don’t seem quite feasible. The solution seems fairly unrealistic, too, but I suppose ‘only in a small town’ applies here. The mystery of her father is cleared up, too. The good news would be that Olivia seems to be starting to come to terms with her childhood. I hope this character arc continues and she becomes a likeable character. I find the rest of the cast, specifically the writers, far more appealing.

Rating: 6
March 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24023-6


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