Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Murder

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Murder (Signet, 2005).

I'm a very poor reader of cozy mysteries. I keep letting the plot get in the way.

The cover design sold this book to me. It's the first in a short series of three lighter-than-air murder mysteries written by Rosemary Harris under the pen name Martin. They feature a young super-secretary, Bebe Bennett, formerly of Richmond, Virginia and now at work in the wild, swinging world of New York City in 1965. The Beatles have blown the lid off pop culture, and record companies are falling over themselves to find the next music stars, but nobody anticipated that the next one to cross the pond, Philip Royal and the Beefeaters, would be caught in a heavy police investigation after Bebe and her roommate - a stewardess, naturally - find Philip dead in his hotel room.

But that's all right, because there isn't a heavy police investigation. Seriously, police show up, tell the stewardess that they suspect her of the murder, and then kindly exit the narrative entirely, leaving the ladies to clear their names. This involves the girls repeatedly chatting up the other band members, manager, British journalists and the like, all of whom are completely and totally happy to remain in the hotel indefinitely and assist these two with their inquiries.

Put another way, the plot conspires to have the girls in disguise as French maids in the hotel about three days after the murder, where they somehow gain access to the crime scene and find additional clues that the police somehow missed. Now, I'm understanding of the reality that forensics weren't quite what they are today in the 1960s, but when the story goes about puncturing any suspicion of disbelief in as cavalier a manner as this, you're just going to have to try and accept things and enjoy the scenery. Or, you know, read something that acts like it was the product of some consideration about how this premise might actually have played out. Not recommended.

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