Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper

I don’t usually binge-read, but recently I realized, when the latest book was released, that I was three books behind on Elaine Viet’s delightful mystery series featuring Josie Marcus, professional mystery shopper living in the suburbs of St. Louis. I picked up the oldest of the three, and enjoyed it so much that I read the remaining two in rapid succession.

In Murder Is a Piece of Cake (2012), Josie’s mystery shopping assignment involves wedding flowers and wedding cakes. Murder Is a Piece of CakePerfect timing: Josie is planning her own wedding to veterinarian Ted Scottsmeyer. Perfect, that is, until a deranged ex-client of Ted’s shows up at the clinic in her wedding dress, insisting that she is Ted’s bride-to-be. What could be worse than that? Well, the crazed bridezilla is murdered—and Ted’s elegant and snobbish mother (who carries a pistol in her purse) is accused of the crime. How can Josie and Ted get married with his mother in jail?

Viets always includes a section of shopping tips in Josie’s adventures, and the tips at the end of this book, of course, cover how to buy wedding flowers and cakes.

Fixing to Die (2013) finds Josie remodeling the house she and Ted (yes, of course they got married!) have bought from his partner at the vet clinic, Christine. When they tear down the hastily built gazebo in the back yard, they find a body—the Fixing to Diebody of Christine’s sister, who lived in the house but supposedly left town months earlier. In between appointments with contractors and mystery shopping kitchen contractors, Josie needs to clear Christine before overwork at the clinic lays her new husband low.

Shopping tips cover renovating a mid-century kitchen. Apparently this is a big deal these days. My house was built in the 1950s, so I guess I’ve been living with a mid-century kitchen since 1976, but I can’t say I ever noticed. Or renovated, for that matter.

As the wife of a veterinarian, Josie is certainly well-equipped to mystery shop doggy daycare centers in A Dog Gone A Dog Gone MurderMurder (2014). She runs into trouble when the obnoxious owner of one of the daycares is murdered on the premises, and her mother’s new tenant is accused of the crime. (It’s downright dangerous to be a friend or relative of Josie Marcus, sort of like being related to Jessica Fletcher!).

Shopping tips cover what to look for in doggy daycare as well as some good tips on dealing with dogs who don’t do well in daycare.

I’ve been enjoying the Josie Marcus series since it began in 2005 with Dying in Style. The mysteries are always well done, and it’s fun to revisit the cast of supporting characters. Josie’s daughter Amelia has grown from young tween to almost a teen, and has started solving mysteries of her own, taking on the Mean Girls at school in Fixing to Die, and learning some of the dangers of trying to grow up too fast in A Dog Gone Murder.

A Dog Gone Murder also includes a teaser for Viets’ next Helen Hawthorne Dead End Jobs mystery, Checked Out, involving a painting of alligators, once owned by Clark Gable, now possibly hiding in a library book. I’m definitely looking forward to that one!

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