The Dead End Job Mysteries

I’ve been a fan of Elaine Viets’ Dead End Job mystery series since the first one came out in 2003, and I have all fifteen on a keeper shelf. The first thirteen have just been re-released with new covers (and prices) in eBook form. If you enjoy humorous mysteries as much as I do, you won’t want to miss them.

Dead End Jobs

The series gets its name from the dreadful jobs Helen Hawthorne works to stay under the radar and off the books. She’s fled St. Louis for the sunnier climate of Fort Lauderdale, a few steps ahead of the law. I’m not going to tell you exactly why Helen is on the run, because it’s too much fun to find out for yourself, but I’ll just say it involves her ex-husband, a neighbor, and a baseball bat.

.

Helen finds a new home at the Coronado Tropic Apartments, run by chain-smoking, purple-clad, seventyish Margery Flax, a great character throughout the series. Helen also meets Peggy and her parrot Pete, and Thumbs the cat, and wonders about the pot-smoking hippie in one of the upstairs apartments (keep an eye on him). I grew up in South Florida (the suburbs of Miami), so I especially enjoy the Fort Lauderdale setting.

.

Through the series, Helen works at some awful jobs. She’s worked at penny-pinching retail shops (a bridal shop, a book store, a doggy boutique, a resale shop, and a beauty salon), and cleaned hotel rooms and litter pans. She’s been a telemarketer and a yacht stewardess. All these jobs and more are tasks Elaine Viets has actually done as research for the books.

.

As I write this, Helen’s first three adventures (Shop Til You Drop,Murder Between the Covers, and Dying to Call You) are available from Amazon for only $2.99 each, a perfect time to try one. One of these days I’m going to binge-read them all in order.

.

You can check them all out and read the first chapters on Elaine’s site. (While you’re there, check out the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series, set in St. Louis—I’m a big fan of those books, too!)

 

Random Reviews

I keep a file called Book Notes for Posts in my reviews and articles Scrivener project, and now and then it fills up with thoughts on totally unrelated books. Time to clean it out, so here are a few random reviews.

.

between-home-heartbreakWho is Eldorado Jane? The heroine of Jacqui Nelson’s Between Home & Heartbreak (second in her Gambling Hearts series) is the star of Calhoun’s Wild West Show, but is she also Jane Dority, who disappeared as a child eighteen years ago after Gypson’s Medicine Show visited the tiny town of Juniper Flats, Texas? She says she is, and she’s laying claim to the Dority homestead.

.

But Lewis Adams, Jane’s childhood friend and current owner of the Dority property, doesn’t believe her. She seems to have Jane’s memories, but she doesn’t have Jane’s eyes. But she does know horses, and Lewis needs help with the herd he’s contracted to train for the Texas Rangers.

.

The bet Eldora and Lewis make for ownership of the homestead turns out to be the least of their worries, as deception, blackmail, old enemies, and even the weather combine to thwart their plans.

.

Readers of Nelson’s Old West adventures first met Lewis in Between Love and Lies. Also reappearing from that novel are Noah and Sadie Ballantyne and a few other unexpected visitors. Between Home and Heartbreak is a very satisfying follow up to Between Love and Lies. You don’t have to read them in order, but why not?

.

Susan M. Boyer’s Lowcountry Book Club is the fifth entry in the Liz Talbot Mystery series, and just as good as its predecessors. This time Liz and Nate, back from their honeymoon, are investigating the murder of a locallowcountry-book-club socialite/volunteer who seems to have been loved by everyone around her, including the husband accused of pushing her over the balcony (and possibly another man—but who?). With the help of her ghostly friend Colleen, Liz narrows down the suspect list and discovers just how much turmoil can develop in a very prestigious Book Club.

.

As always, the city of Charleston and the island community of Stella Maris contribute essential aspects to the story and Liz’ family members make cameo appearances. I’ve enjoyed this series from Henery Press since it began with Lowcountry Boil—worth reading in order.

.

I’ve loved Elaine Viets’ Dead End Jobs series from the beginning, and The Art of the-art-of-murderMurder is an excellent entry. Helen doesn’t actually have to work a terrible job in this one (although Phil does time as a condo security guard), but she does join a painting class (for which she has no aptitude at all) to solve the murder of one of the students. Margery is back, of course, as well as Peggy and the parrots, Thumbs the cat, and Valerie the reporter. Definitely a fun read.

.

For science fiction written in 1968, The Goblin Reservation holds up fairly well. I read pretty much all of Clifford Simak’s work back a few decades ago, although I didn’t remember this one. It involves a man who has accidentally been duplicated in a transporter accident (shades of Star Trek), a genetically the-goblin-reservationdesigned pet saber-tooth tiger, a Neanderthal time traveler named Alley Oop, William Shakespeare (who insists he never wrote anything), a Ghost who doesn’t know whose ghost he is, transport reminiscent of Heinlein’s “The Roads Must Roll,” and of course goblins, fairies, and trolls. Set, by the way, in Wisconsin about five hundred years in the future, with mention of phones but not of computers. A fun, rather nostalgic reminder of classic science fiction.

.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, has been on the best seller lists for more than a year the-girl-on-the-trainnow, and I understand why. I’m not a fan of first person present tense narration, and there are three such narrators in the book, all of them undependable. The characters spend the entire book lying, cheating, and fantasizing. Terrible secrets are revealed and hearts are broken. This is not a feel-good book. But it is fascinating and difficult to put down, and I recommend it.

Recent Reading: More Mysteries

Here are three more mysteries I’ve enjoyed recently, two set in Texas and one in Florida, all quick and entertaining reads.

Katie Graykowski’s Rest in Pieces is the first in a new humorous mystery series, the PTO Murder Club, set in the Austin, Texas, area. Mustang Ridges, the first person narrator is funny and snarky and goes off on Rest in Pieceshilarious tangents, all while trying to hold together her life as a recently divorced mom. She doesn’t really need to be investigating the death of the local kindergarten teacher, unlikely as the verdict of death by heroin overdose may seem, but she and her fellow PTO board members, Haley and Monica, just can’t leave it alone. Add the suspicious attentions of TWO attractive men, a bit of breaking and entering, and a midnight manicure, and you have quite an adventure. Graykowski leaves enough loose ends to fuel the next installment; I hope it comes soon!

Murder at Veranda House is one of Cheryl Bolen’s Texas Heroines in Peril romantic suspense quartet, but it is a stand-alone novel. Annette Holcombe is a young widow, opening the historic Galveston Island homeMurder at Veranda House she inherited from her late (but not particularly lamented) husband as a Bed and Breakfast. Her first week as hostess at Veranda House brings a lot more than she counted on: murder, guests who may not be who they claim to be, a possible missing treasure, and a tropical storm that can’t seem to make up its mind. Annette can’t make up her mind, either, about the handsome guest who charms her young daughter and has designs of his own on her.

This tale of romance and mystery will be especially entertaining to readers who are familiar with Galveston Island, featuring as it does historic houses and island charm. All in all, Murder at Veranda House is a quick and suspenseful read.

Killer BlondeKiller Blonde is a novella entry in Elaine Viets’ Dead End Jobs series, a long-time favorite of mine. Fans will enjoy hearing the voice of Marjorie Flax, colorful (mainly purple) septuagenarian owner of the Coronado apartments, as she tells Helen Hawthorne the story of a perfect murder committed forty years before. The tale is especially entertaining if you remember the office politics (and fashions!) of the 1970s. A must for Helen and Marjorie’s many fans.

Previous Older Entries