|Diane Mott Davidson: Chopping Spree|
Books (Paperback), ISBN 0553578359
In another fit of predictability, a character introduced in this novel ends up dead in the first hundred pages. The cast of characters who survive remains quite limited: Goldy and her cop husband, Tom; eccentric best-friend Marla; bratty teenage son Arch; vegetarian assistant Julian Teller and abusive ex-husband John Richard Korman. Other characters serve one of three purposes: they will die, kill or act as red herrings.
These predictable items show up in certain measures in all mystery novels, forming the structure of the genre of non-thriller mysteries. But in Davidson's latest novel, they overwhelm the reader with their tediousness. Like an ancient Greek poet, Davidson uses stock phrases to describe certain people and places. These phrases, when piled on top of one another can leave the reader confused -- and thinking he or she already read the book.
The novel as a whole feels like a staged melodrama, with the usually fun and interesting Goldy reduced to a caricature of herself and cast as the stereotypic well-intentioned heroine hiding her actions from her husband. Her interactions with Arch, now 15, frustrate and annoy, as Arch's bratty behavior goes on without consequences. Goldy puts up with his materialistic snottiness in a way that makes the reader want to shake both of them. In a small and rather nitpicky complaint, Goldy, who loves her caffeine, on some days spends what seems like all of her time drinking espresso in quantities that would kill mere mortals. Each time she pulled another steaming demitasse, this reviewer's hands began to shake and heart rate accelerated.
In Chopping Spree, Goldy caters an event for wealthy shoppers of an upscale mall. The catering event ends in murder, and Goldy finds herself in the middle of a messy situation. Wealthy shoppers and mall investors all hide secrets in their past, and Goldy gets a little too close to all of them. As usual, her busy catering schedule must be dealt with, all while she snoops around to find out whodunit. The recipes, as always, sound absolutely delicious and worth trying.
Chopping Spree disappoints. Previous Davidson mysteries provided snappy, entertaining reads -- the epitome of fun beach books. This installment, however, will make readers take to the ocean, play volleyball or engage in other beach activities.
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