Go to Homepage   Jerrilyn Farmer: Dim Sum Dead

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage: four moon gif Avon (Paperback), ISBN 0380817187
Everything old is new again. What holds true for Broadway certainly holds true for Hollywood's pampered elite. Mah-jongg, once a game for middle-aged moms and over-the-hill grandmas, rises from the dusty shelves of family dens and clacks its newly buffed and ivoried tiles among the film capital's hoi polloi.

Book: Jerrylyn Farmer, Dim Sum Dead Maddie Bean, ever quick to stay atop the fluctuating fads of Tinseltown's latest hot properties, finds herself providing food, drink and party atmosphere for director Buster Davis' weekly mah-jongg group. Meanwhile, friend and partner Wesley Westcott labors over an old house that once belonged to former film legend (and 50's-style sexy leading man), Dickey McBride.

Wesley finds an antique mah-jongg set behind a fireplace, then a diary and a dragon-handled dagger in a secret drawer of the mah-jongg box. Maddie recommends giving the set, along with the dagger and diary (despite her almost overwhelming itch to decipher the journal) back to Dickey's grieving widow. Unfortunately, before the set can be handed over to Quita, Dickey's very young bride, someone steals it.

Thanks to Maddie's connection with the L.A.P.D., a.k.a. the studly Lieutenant Chuck Honnett, the mahj set reappears -- minus the journal. Elbow deep in preparations for the next mah-jongg night at Buster's, Maddie can't delve into the mystery. Since the gathering falls on Chinese New Year, Maddie pulls out all the stops to provide Buster and his friends with the finest in Chinese cuisine and the trendiest of drinks.

Book: Jerrilyn Farmer, Immaculate ReceptionThe evening proves less than an unqualified success. Quita flips out when informed of the diary's theft. It doesn't take a mah-jongg fortuneteller's warning to get Maddie's snooping juices flowing. Enough veiled hints and innuendo float around the party to make even a deaf and dumb dragon suspect trouble in paradise.

Sure enough, the next morning a jogger finds Quita dead on the stairs outside Buster's mansion. But who did the ex-model and widow in? Was it the hottie director who made it clear Quita's days as his number one girl were over? And what about the quartet of aging divas -- most of them Dickey's ex-lovers -- and their gardener, who bears a suspicious resemblance to the man who stole the maj-jongg set?

Don't look at me for the answers. The Meanest Woman in Cyberspace, a.k.a. my editor, reserves her most fiendish torments for reviewers who give spoilers. Save everyone a lot of trouble and buy the book for yourself. You won't be disappointed. A master chef of mystery, Farmer takes a plate of red herrings, adds a dash of history, a generous handful of plot and a pound of unforgettable characters. Then she simmers them together just long enough to bring reader's curiosity to a boil before serving up a finished dish fit for a mystery gourmet.

If you like Hollywood and all its quirks, insider gossips and outrageous personalities, then you'll love Maddie Bean and crew. But Farmer's insightful commentary on life, love and relationships remain long after the star-burnished gloss wears off.

Teri Smith

Click here to read Teri Smith's interview with Jerrilyn Farmer.

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