Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetsky

how to marry a murderer amanda matetsky1 Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetsky

There are three distinct types of English-language books that can be found in second-hand bookshops in Buenos Aires. The first is ancient romance titles with Fabio-esque chaps on the front, the second 1970s feminist literature (reviews on some such books to come), and the third cozy mystery novels set in the mid Twentieth Century. How to Marry a Murderer'falls into the last camp, and was one of a couple of campy mysteries I picked up to tide me over during the excruciatingly long flight back to Aus.

Ive been meaning to pick up this series for a while, in part because of its 1950s Manhattan setting, but mostly due to the punnilicious moniker of the books heroine: Paige Turner. Puns, vintage clothing and mystery? Lead the way.

The only female writer on the staff for Daring Detective, Paige Turner is more than passingly familiar with the glass ceiling that sits quite firmly above her, and has become accustomed to going the extra mile, or marathon, perhaps, to prove herself. While the other writers on staff write off their afternoons with a bottle of booze or a long lunch, Paige spends hers chasing up leads, visiting crime scenes, and interrogating potential suspects. When shes not making coffee for her boss, that is.

But though Paiges efforts go unnoticed in her workplace, others are paying attention, and Paige soon finds herself in the employ of television celebrity Ginger Allen, a woman whose problems are two-fold: one, shes forever in Lucille Balls shadow, and two, someones trying to kill her. Paiges job is to stick close to Ginger to see which of her friends and/or foes is the likely culprit, and to massage Gingers ego while she does so. But Paige soon runs up against a problem: Ginger is so utterly unlikeable that the list of suspects is longer than the credits on Gingers popular TV show.

Unfortunately, like Gingers unimpressed acquaintances, I found myself unmoved by the charms of How to Marry a Murderer. Having expected the campy mid-century setting that is so highly advertised here, I was a little surprised to find that the books setting feels entirely unanchored. Other than Paiges treatment at the office, much of which is described through Paiges exposition rather than through action, the treatment of PoC driver Woodrow, and the constant name-dropping of TV stars, the book feels almost as though its set in contemporary times. So much of the inequality of those times is simply discussed by Paige herself rather than being played out in the books pages, and the book feels not only unanchored but bloated as a result.

As noted, the reliance on exposition slows down the action, particularly so given that were dealing with a close first-person POV here, and that Paige has a tendency to ramble and repeat herself. The pun around her name is given a work-out several times over, for example, and any vaguely sarcastic joke is promptly, and unnecessarily, explained in parentheses. Now, Im quite partial to the odd parenthetical aside, but cant help but feel that a page covered in them feels a little sloppy and unpolished.

Plot-wise, the book drags a good deal, and I found myself wondering when on earth we would actually see Ginger actually threatened in any manner at all. Not until half-way through, it turns out, although the back cover blurb suggests something else entirely. The stakes, therefore seem bizarrely low: Ginger is adamant that shes in trouble, yet we never actually see this play out beyond the series of potential attacks she relates to Paige at their first meeting. When things do finally come to a head, I found myself a little bamboozled, and couldnt for the life of me believe the baddies motivationsnor their final, bizarre attack. Incidentally, what is it with killers who seek to murder their victims by force-feeding them whiskey? Is this really as common as these books seem to make out? Finally, though Im not usually averse to spoilers, the title for this book, although, yes, a witty reference to a vintage film, perhaps gives a little too much away.

Im afraid that despite the promise of the setting and of the gutsy main character I struggled with this one on a number of levels, with the quality of writing and the slow-moving plot making this short little read feel a lot longer than its brief page extent would suggest.

Rating: star Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetskystar Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetskyblankstar Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetskyblankstar Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetskyblankstar Book Review: How to Marry a Murderer by Amanda Matetsky (okay)

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Other books by Amanda Matetsky:

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  1. Thanks for this review! While Im not familiar with this series, it definitely seems like something I would read. I wish the book had been a little better but your review was excellent! Maybe Ill take a look at the others in the series.

  2. Stephanie /

    Thanks for stopping by, Heather. While this one wasnt for me, I did pick up another similar book that I quite enjoyed and that you might, tooMT Jeffersons The Victory Dance Murder. It has a similar mid-century vibe, and plenty of book love as well (always a bonus). Ill pop up a post on that one tomorrow.

    If you do give this series a read, let me know how you go. Ive heard that this is one of the weaker ones in the series, so I might have a look for some of the others and see if theyre more to my taste.

  3. Looks like an interesting cozy series. Too bad this book dragged and was slow in action.
    Harvee (Book Dilettante) recently posted..Tuesday Teaser: Roam: A Novel with Music by Alan Lazar

  4. Stephanie /

    Thanks for visiting, Harvee. Its a great set-up, but I wasnt convinced by the execution.

  5. Man, I was really hoping with a punny name like Paige Turner, the writing would be witty and well executed. But, too quickly, campy can go from funny to underwhelming.
    Jami Zehr at recently posted..Review: Ill Wind

  6. Stephanie /

    I had really high hopes for this one, particularly as a lover of awful puns. But the writing just felt so rushed and unpolished. Le sigh.

  7. Cindy /

    Seems about the only time I really read is on vacation. When I'm home I use what time others read to knit or crochet or update blogs, or read blogs, or comment on blogs, etc.
    Sounds like a good book. Got one here a friend sent me about homelessness. I do plan to find some time to read it

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