Saturday, October 19, 2013

Buried In Bargains - Josie Belle

Buried In Bargains
A Good Buy Girls Mystery
Josie Belle
Berkley Prime Crime
It’s Christmastime for the Good Buy Girls, and that means one thing: a 75% off sale on last year’s wrapping paper at the stationery store.  The four friends meet up to hit the sale to stock Maggie Gerber’s new shop with sale-priced gift wrap.  Joining them is Laura, Maggie’s daughter, home from college on break.  Laura also helps her mom at the shop, which experiences a huge surge in sales when a local resident decides to throw a Christmas formal ball. 
Laura steps forward to befriend Diane Jenkins, a painfully shy girl just hired at the deli, operated by Michael and Joanne Claramotta.  Joanne, largely pregnant with her first and much-anticipated child, is leery of the young blonde hired by her husband.  Having already been through this, and having known the couple since grade school, her friends wisely counsel her to write off her feelings to hormones.  It’s impossible to write off the scene that Maggie and Joanne find at the deli early one morning.  Michael, unconscious in a pool of blood; and Diane, nearby, strangled to death. 
The police first suspect Michael, although they admit it would be hard to come up with a scenario that fits the facts.  The bigger problem is: there’s no record of Diane at the deli.  Michael paid her in cash and didn’t even have an application on file.  Her apartment is sparsely furnished and looks more like a hotel than a home.  And, even worse, Maggie accidentally witnessed a very suspicious discussion between Michael and Diane at the ball. 
This is the third entry in the series (50% OFF MURDER, and A DEAL TO DIE FOR) and, in my opinion, it’s far and away the best yet.  The murder doesn’t happen for quite a while, which is usually a bone of contention for me.  I barely even noticed.  This time, the first part of the novel is filled with very realistic people dealing with very realistic ups and downs in life.  The characters have found their grooves, and I would very much like to visit this town and hang out with all of them.  When the murder comes, it’s all the more shocking.  The investigation (and the worry about whether Michael will recover or not) is perfectly paced, never dragging.  The outcome feels real to me, and though some of the final action occurs ‘off-stage,’ that’s the way it should be in a cozy mystery.  Here’s hoping we see more of the Good Buy Girls.

Rating: 8
October 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25230-7 (paperback)


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