Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mystery Book Review: A Fatal Appraisal by J. B. Stanley

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of A Fatal Appraisal by J. B. Stanley. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.A Fatal Appraisal by J. B. Stanley

A Fatal Appraisal by J. B. Stanley
A Collectible Mystery with Molly Appleby

Berkeley Prime Crime (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-425-21264-5 (0425212645)
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-21264-6 (9780425212646)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Amateur sleuth Molly Appleby has a keen knowledge of antiques, a special fondness for collectibles, and a canny acquaintance with the criminal mind ...Molly Appleby is in Richmond Virginia, to cover a taping of the hit antiques show Hidden Treasures. But after the show's main appraiser inspects an 18th-century desk with hidden compartments, she finds him dead. Molly thinks that the antique desk holds the key to this 21st-century crime. It's up to her to collect the clues before more new blood is shed over old rarities.

Review: A Fatal Appraisal is the second mystery in this series to feature Molly Appleby, a reporter for Collector's Weekly. The series also features collecting and appraisal tips.

Molly is in Richmond (VA) to cover a television show patterned after the real TV series, Antiques Roadshow. There are the alliterative experts (Frank for furniture, Alicia for art, Clarke for china, Tony for toys, and so on), a host, a producer, and others that are part of the drama. Inevitably, one is found dead (was it murder?), and it's up to Molly to determine who was responsible.

A Fatal Appraisal starts off strong. Molly Appleby is a very appealing, energetic character. She is not only good at her job, she seems to enjoy it despite a less than desirable boss. She probably eats a bit too much and her figure shows, but life is full of compromises. She's trying to find time to develop a relationship with that special someone and is convinced he's worth the effort. In short, a very strong, well developed, lead character for the series.

The other characters associated with the show are varied and serve the plot adequately as suspects when Frank the furniture expert is found dead under mysterious circumstances.

It is at this point in the book that the story starts to meander, never quite finding its way back to its promising premise. Contributing factors include the general lack of motivation for anyone to kill Frank, the murder "weapon" (as it were) that is hardly a guarantee for success, and, in an odd way, the appearance of Molly's mother, who seems to dominate the latter half of the book.

Scattered between chapters is a side story that takes place in 1776 involving one of the pieces of furniture currently being displayed on the fictional Hidden Treasures show. It's actually rather interesting and does provide a unifying thread tying the past to the present.

Finally, the examples of hidden compartments in furniture provided at the end are marred by the small size and poor quality of photos. A link to a website with larger photos, in color, would have been a nice touch.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of A Fatal Appraisal for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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