Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Homicide Hustle - Ella Barrick

The Homicide Hustle
A Ballroom Dance Mystery
Ella Barrick
In the third installment of this entertaining series (QUICKSTEP TO MURDER, DEAD MAN WALTZING) professional ballroom dancer Stacy Graysin is preparing to star in the latest season of Ballroom With The B-Listers.  Her partner will be Zane Savage, a one-time child star and Stacy’s former teenage crush.  Zane is obviously looking to jump-start a second phase in his career with the show.  Stacy knows that, as one of the professionals, the show will bring attention and (she hopes) business to her dance studio. 
It doesn’t take long for Stacy to realize that ‘reality’ TV is largely producer-driven, as producers Nigel and Tessa look to manufacture drama among the cast.  The drama becomes all too real when Tessa goes missing.  Then the police arrive to announce that Tessa’s body was fished out of the river that morning.  The obvious suspects are the people who worked with Tessa, but the suspect pool widens exponentially when police find that Tessa spent the last night of her life at a crowded night club.
As always, Stacy proves that being a professional ballroom dancer is an athletic and demanding endeavor.  While the audience sees mainly sequins and makeup, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into the rehearsals for a single dance number.  Vitaly, Stacy’s professional dance partner seems like a realistic and nuanced character, providing much of the heart and soul of the dance studio.  His English misstatements continue to amuse me more than they probably should.  I’d love to have lunch with him.

The backdrop of a reality TV show filled with various “B-lister” celebrities makes for a fun and interesting group of suspects.  Stacy starts off investigating because it’s what she does, but continues because she has no interest in forever linking her dance studio and murder in the mind of the TV-watching public.  It makes sense.  As does her reluctance to continue playing Nancy Drew when producer Nigel decides it’s a great ‘story’ to film for the show.  There’s a lot going on in this one, but the author manages to keep all the plates spinning quite nicely until we reach the not-so-obvious conclusion.  If you’re looking for a fun and involving mystery populated with interesting characters, this is the book – and series – for you.  The final pages feel like an ending, but I hold out hope that Stacy, Vitaly, and the rest will return. 
Rating: 7 ½
April 2013
ISBN# 978-0-451-23974-7 (paperback)


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