Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley

Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley
A Charlotte LaRue Mystery

Kensington Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-7582-0766-2 (0758207662)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-0766-1 (9780758207661)
Publication Date: December 2006
List Price: $22.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Maid for a Day Charlotte LaRue knows that sweeping murder under the rug is anything but simple in the Big Easy–especially since no smudge or stain is safe from her scrutiny ...

Doing a favor for a friend in need has Charlotte cleaning rooms at the New Orleans Jazzy Hotel. The historic Garden District mansion is serving as a home-away-from-home for Shreveport’s chapter of the Red Scarf Sorority, a group of socially elite women in their forties.

While picking up beautiful red silk scarves from the floor of a room she's cleaning, Charlotte is startled by the sudden arrival of its ranting and raving occupant, who insists that Charlotte ignored the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the door and threatens to have her fired. Charlotte is stunned into silence, until the Red Scarf Sorority comes to the rescue. The women manage to calm Tessa Morgan, who just had a run-in with her estranged husband’s much younger mistress Lisa—and learned that they plan to marry. After some of the women jokingly suggest making Lisa permanently disappear, Charlotte takes her leave. The situation gets even messier when Charlotte runs into an old flame and learns that he is Tessa’s stepfather—and that Lisa may be blackmailing him.

The next day, Charlotte gets back to work, only to learn that Lisa has been murdered, strangled by what could have been a red scarf. The hotel is awash in suspects, and soon Tessa is being dragged away in handcuffs. It seems Lisa had more enemies than friends, and Charlotte is convinced the police are on the wrong track with Tessa. It's time to start scouring through clues before the person who rubbed out Lisa makes a clean getaway ...

Review: Scrub-a-Dub Dead, by Barbara Colley, is the sixth mystery in this series featuring Charlotte LaRue, owner and manager her own New Orleans maid service for the genteel folk of the Garden District.

Charlotte is looking forward to some well earned time off. Instead, she agrees to help out a friend who has a contract cleaning rooms at the Jazzy Hotel and is currently a bit-handed. While working at the hotel, she encounters the members of the Red Scarf Society, a group of socially prominent women from Shreveport who are visiting New Orleans. When a young woman, who just happens to be the dating the estranged husband of one of the society members, is found strangled with a red scarf, Charlotte finds herself drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that just may involve a special person from Charlotte’s own distant past.

This well written and constructed mystery has at its core a strong character in the form of Charlotte LaRue. Charlotte is reminiscent of one’s favorite aunt, someone who’s weathered more than her fair share of life’s personal storms, yet maintains a positive outlook and whose advice, when given, is meaningful and sound.

Colley frequently allows the reader to follow Charlotte’s reasoning in analyzing the crimes, sorting out what’s possible and impossible, plausible and implausible. For a story that has a fairly complex set of relationships, this approach helps clarify (both for Charlotte and the reader) who may be innocent and who most probably is not. Many mysteries would be greatly improved if their authors followed Colley’s lead in this regard.

What is disappointing in the book is the general lack of depth and originality in the supporting characters, most of whom are completely unmemorable. It’s likely that twenty minutes after finishing the last chapter, one would be hard pressed to name any of the victims or even the perpetrator of the crimes.

Potential readers who assume, not unreasonably, from the title that this is some light, frothy cozy will be sadly disappointed. Scrub-a-Dub Dead is definitely a cut above the average book in this genre.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of Scrub-a-Dub Dead for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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